Sen. Reid Pulls a Fast One

The more the American people learn about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) government takeover of health care, the less they like it:

Rather than go back to the drawing board and write a better bill, Reid instead did something that much of the U.S. Constitution and the rules of the U.S. Senate exist to prevent: he quickly rammed a sweeping and unpopular bill through the Senate before the American people could learn how it would affect them.

Reid’s strategy was cynical, undemocratic, and corrupt.  Reid systematically suppressed a full CBO cost estimate of his legislation.  He bought senators’ votes with billions of the American people’s tax dollars.  Yesterday, Maine’s moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe wrote:

Only three weeks ago the Senate received a more than 2,000 page bill on one of the most complex issues in our history, and we have since considered fewer than two dozen amendments out of more than 450 filed.  A little over 24 hours ago, the Senate received a final, nearly 400 page manager’s amendment that cannot be changed or altered, with more than 500 cross references including to other statutes and will be voted on at 1 am Monday morning. It defies logic that we are now expected to vote on the overall, final package before Christmas with no opportunity to amend it so we can adjourn for a three week recess even as the legislation will not fully go into effect until 2014, four years from now.

When Democrats leave Olympia Snowe decrying how the bill was crafted “in the shadows, without transparency, just to garner the necessary 60 votes and nothing more” and that “legislation affecting more than 300 million Americans deserves better than midnight votes on a bill that cannot be further amended and that no one has had the opportunity to fully consider,” you know you are witnessing a raw partisan power play.

Reid’s power play succeeded, if that’s the right word.  Around 1:00  this morning, Reid cleared the toughest procedural obstacle to approving the bill.  He cleared it on a strict party-line vote, without a single vote to spare.  Barring some unforeseen snag, the Senate will approve Reid’s bill before Christmas.

Yet this thing ain’t over.  The Reid bill must be reconciled with the House bill, which passed by a similarly narrow margin, in a House-Senate conference.  And there are significant differences between what the two chambers seem willing to support – on taxpayer funding of abortions, taxing union health plans, creating a government rationing board, subsidies for undocumented workers, creating a so-called “public option,” et cetera.

That House-Senate conference may take weeks.  During that time, the American people will do what Reid does not want them to do: they will learn more about how his bill would affect the deficit, their health insurance premiums, their tax burden, and the quality of their care.  If so, it will be harder, not easier, for Reid to get 60 votes the next time around.

Every step of the way, Democrats have tried to portray this thing as being inevitable.  The extremely narrow House and Senate votes, and the remaining tensions and acrimony that exist among Democrats, positively scream that ObamaCare is not inevitable.