Or something like that. Yesterday I had mentioned that Obama was going to use the swine flu to deflect attention from real dangers to this country. I also predicted that this was the first major push toward the nationalization of health care, and I wanted to flesh out that prediction a bit more. I think there are two possibilities here, both of which would be a win for him.
First, you have to keep in mind Obama's standard mode of operations since before he became President: pick an issue, cause panic over the issue, and sweep in and use a massive government expansion to 'fix' the issue. He did it with the financial industry, he did it with the auto industry; now he's looking to do it with energy and health care. I'm putting my money on the fact that he's going to use the swine flu as his panic button into health care. I think we'll continue to see panic-inducing headlines about more and more cases, especially if someone actually gets sick enough that they die. That'll be the trigger, and we'll see calls for more government regulation and control of the health care industry in order to protect people from pandemics and such. Then Obama will call on Congress to pass emergency legislation as soon as possible that grants government control of health care, and voila! It's done.
The alternative would be if this swine flu putters out too quickly. In that case, I bet we'll see stories about how 'effective' Obama's leadership has been in the face of 'crisis', and how well he managed the swine flu 'epidemic'. Building on that success, there will be calls to give government control over health care since they did such a fine job of it with the swine flu. And make no mistake – he will get the credit; after all, he has yet to make 19 key appointments to the Department of Health and Human Services, so there's no one else to share it with. We'll see if I'm right in short order.
Anyway, the next step would be the mechanics of nationalization. Here's the vehicle of how he's going to do it. Hot Air reports that Democrats are threatening to abuse a budgetary process to strong-arm through this takeover if necessary (emphasis mine):
They want this to be bipartisan, of course, the same way they wanted the stimulus to be “bipartisan” — i.e. the GOP getting little in return for voting yes and thereby giving the left political cover in case the program stinks — but they’re not going to wait forever. If there’s no deal by October 15, they’ll invoke “reconciliation” and push it through with a simple majority in the Senate. They’ve got the votes and, evidently, the political will. Nothing left to do now except wait and watch the inevitable decline of American health care.
The reconciliation instruction specifies a date. That date, according to one congressional staffer, is October 15. (The original House reconciliation instruction had a late September deadline.)
In other words, the House and Senate each have until that day to pass health care legislation.
If they haven’t, then both houses will consider health care under the reconciliation process, which is relevant primarily for the way it affects the Senate. There will be a limit on the time of debate. Republicans won’t be able to filibuster it.
So there’s still a chance for bipartisanship, which is what both Obama and Democratic leaders want–or, at least, what they say they want. But if bipartisanship doesn’t work, then Dems can pass this on their own. They won’t even need Ben Nelson.
The GOP is threatening to make life hell for Reid procedurally if they follow through on this, but as David Freddoso explains, there’s not much they can do to stop it. Read his whole post; it’s a valuable primer on “reconciliation,” a topic we’re all going to become very familiar with as this debate gets going. Using it to bust the filibuster is actually an abuse of what it was intended for, but then the same could be said of the filibuster itself.
This is essentially holding American health care hostage – the Democrats are saying that the nationalization of health care will happen one way or another, even if they have to misuse legal tactics to do it. We all need to understand what's happening with this, because the nationalization of the health care industry is going to affect every man, woman, and child in such a tremendously negative way that it's hard to express it adequately (read here, here, here, and here for some excellent examples of the fatal disaster that is nationalized health care). Read this as many times as you must in order to get it (emphasis mine):
In the next week or so, Democrats will make sweeping changes to American health care using “budget reconciliation,” an arcane process that allows Congress to minimize debate, prevent amendments, and circumvent filibusters in the Senate, a top Republican budgeteer predicts.
“You would do the same thing, too,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wisc.), the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee and the author of the Republicans' alternative budget. “It's basically an insurance policy to get their agenda passed. Why would they take this tool off the table when they don't need to?”
Reconciliation, originally designed in the 1974 Budget Act as a means for helping the government save money and keep federal budgets closer to balance, allows for certain legislation to pass both houses of Congress on an expedited basis — and perhaps most importantly, to pass the Senate with a bare majority. Despite Republican threats of retribution in the Senate, the GOP is virtually powerless to prevent this from happening.
The reconciliation process begins with passage of a bicameral budget resolution that tells congressional committees to find savings or new revenues in their departments of jurisdiction. In the budget the House passed last month, for example, there exists such an instruction to find a miniscule $1 billion in savings. If that provision finds its way into the final budget that will be considered by both houses (probably next week), that is all it takes to pave the road to nationalized health care.
Then, later in the year, legislation to “reconcile” that $1 billion in savings with government policy can pass Congress without the threat of amendments, with comparatively little time for debate, and by a bare majority vote in the Senate.
In this case, the Obama administration plans to abuse a process that was designed to save money, not create expansive and expensive new policies. The idea is to implement two controversial policies at the once — carbon caps, which will raise government revenues, and nationalized health care, which costs money. Ideally, the one policy allows the other one to pass. If Congress can estimate for itself $1.5 trillion dollars in future revenues from selling mandatory carbon credits, it can then pass legislation under reconciliation to spend all but $1 billion of that money on an entirely new health-care system.
The final result: $1 billion “saved,” thus complying with the budget reconciliation instructions. A billion-dollar tail wags a $1.5 trillion dog.
Although the idea of reconciliation is to improve the budget's bottom line by finding greater savings and revenues than the amount of the new spending, reconciliation has effectively become a tool in recent times for spending more or taxing less. When they controlled Congress, Republicans used the tactic to reform welfare in 1996 and to cut taxes with a majority vote in 2001. They repeatedly tried to use reconciliation to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for exploration — this was actually closer to the original intent of the process, because the drilling revenues would have increased the budget's bottom line.
“We've seen mission creep with reconciliation under both Republicans and Democrats — there's no question about that,” said Ryan. “But this takes mission creep to a whole new level. Now they're talking about the possible nationalization of 17 percent of our economy in health care, 8 percent of the economy in energy, and the largest tax increase in history — all through a process which will have between 35 and 105 total hours of debate between the House and the Senate . . . That's an enormous power grab.”
The biggest problem Democrats face is that they may not be able to find the votes in the Senate to enact carbon caps, because of objections by Democrats from energy-producing states such as Louisiana and West Virginia. In that case, they would have to come up with revenues from other areas in the budget. “They'll simply have to come up with enough tax increases, or some kind of savings to pay for their health-care plan,” said Ryan. “They could get $100 billion and change out of Medicare advantage . . . that sort of thing.”
If such measures do not produce enough money for Obama's new health system, there are many common budget tricks to get around this limitation. For example, the legislation can suddenly and dramatically cut funding for the new health-care program after a few years of operation — after which, Congress can simply add the funding back in, perhaps through reconciliation once again. This was the budget tactic that Democrats used this year when they expanded the State Childrens' Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) – under current law, the program's funding suddenly falls off a cliff in 2013, in order to satisfy deficit rules on paper.
Democrats control only 58 votes at the moment, and pending the outcome of the Coleman-Franken election contest in Minnesota, they may gain one more this spring. With at least one Democratic senator, Ben Nelson (D, Neb.), making noises that he might vote against a sweeping reform of American health care, reconciliation might be their best or their only option for creating a health-care system run in part by the government or with a much larger government role.
Some Senate Democrats have cautioned against the use of reconciliation to overhaul health care. Sen. Kent Conrad (D, N.D.), chairman of the budget committee is among them.
Sen. Robert Byrd (D, W.Va.), who actually participated in writing the Budget Act of 1974, was far more emphatic in his opposition, writing on April 2 that it “would violate the intent and spirit of the budget process and do serious injury to the Constitutional role of the Senate . . . As one of the authors of the reconciliation process, I can tell you that the ironclad parliamentary procedures it authorizes were never intended for this purpose,” Byrd wrote. “Reconciliation was intended to adjust revenue and spending levels in order to reduce deficits. It was not designed to cut taxes. It was not designed to create a new climate and energy regime, and certainly not to restructure the entire health care system.”
Republicans have tried to prevent the use of reconciliation on both carbon caps and nationalized health care. A budget amendment by Sen. Mike Johanns (R, Neb.) to prevent its use for carbon caps received 67 votes in the Senate, reflecting many Democrats' fears of the economic devastation such caps could create for their states. An amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R, S.C.) to make health-care legislation through reconciliation more difficult, was accepted on voice vote.
But both of these provisions are very likely to be dumped when House and Senate negotiators draft a final version of the budget.
The only thing — literally — that can stop the Democrats from forcing this through is the American public. There must be such an outrage from Democrat voters and constituents threatening to vote these Senators and Reps home that they will back away from this plan.
That's it. Period.
Start dialing now, and call repeatedly until you nag your Democrat representatives into submission. Otherwise, you can kiss American health care goodbye, courtesy of Barack Obama and the radical Leftist Democrats in charge. Bring on the tax hikes, bring on the health care rationing, and bring on the you-must-sacrifice-your-health-for-the-greater-good cruelty.
There's my two cents.