Over the past few days, as Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pushed ahead on the most partisan piece of significant legislation in the Senate’s storied history, political leaders on the left have sought to blame Republicans for the failure to achieve passage sooner. President Obama’s political consultant in the West Wing, David Axelrod, said as much on Meet the Press. Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean echoed these statements on the same program. And now the line seems to be at the top of every liberal talking points memo in Washington.
However, this line of political attack is patently false. First, there is the obvious fact that the media is choosing to ignore — the Democrats have overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate, and control the White House. How can one party meaningfully obstruct from a position of 40 votes in the Senate? Since a vote will in fact occur on Christmas Eve, it has been proven that you simply cannot effectively obstruct from the ultra-minority position. But more importantly, this line of political attack overlooks the two greatest obstructionists operating today — President Obama and Harry Reid.
The glaring follow-up question to that is: ‘how can a majority leader or president obstruct?’ It’s actually quite simple. By shutting conservatives out of the negotiations from the beginning to the end, the far-left leaders in the White House, House and Senate have ended up with a bill that is absent of compromise, reason, or the moderate undertones necessary to successfully transform one-sixth of our national economy. By obstructing any true debate, any real dialogue, or any honest negotiations in place of buyouts, bribes and kickbacks for the moderates on the left, Obama and Reid have caused the legislative process to move at a snail’s pace. Liberals and conservatives can see that the horrendous legislation isn’t getting any better, and therefore simply hold out for a $300 million payout so they can try and rescue their own careers back home.
Liberals will bemoan that this is a sign of the times. Partisanship is simply the way of Washington these days and is mostly the fault of the right. But is it really? When President Bush passed his significant overhaul of federal education initiatives, No Child Left Behind, it passed in the House by a 384-45 margin and in the Senate by a 91-8 margin, championed by former Senator Ted Kennedy himself. That was in 2001, President Bush’s first year in office. These pre-conference votes took place before the good-natured comity immediately following the attack on our nation in September. At this time, Republicans controlled the House, and Democrats controlled the Senate (after the defection of Vermont’s Jim Jeffords (I-VT) in May 2001). Bipartisanship is not a product of long-past eras like Ed Sullivan, black and white movies and the fashionable smoking of cigarettes. President Obama’s predecessor (as Obama likes to call him) was able to pass significant reforms, even if everyone didn’t see eye-to-eye simply by not closing down the process to the minority party.
This week, Senator Harry Reid will prevent any amendments from being offered onto the health care legislation that was set in motion this morning at 1:18 AM. By “filling the amendment tree,” Reid eliminates any opportunity for Republicans to at least attempt to put their imprint on the legislation, and who knows, get one or two bipartisan supporters in the process. Republicans were similarly locked out of backroom negotiations after the Baucus version of the bill was unveiled in October with Fox News airing video of media members being pushed out of a room while White House advisors and liberal Senators negotiated the framework for what was voted on this morning.
Since his term began, President Obama has held dozens of meetings and strategy sessions at the White House with Members of Congress, and Republicans haven’t been invited to a single one since April. They weren’t invited even after they wrote the President begging to find “common ground.” That’s hardly similar to President Bush and Ted Kennedy calling each other to hammer out education reform details, or their meeting on a host of other issues such as border security (in which President Bush also worked closely with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who could hardly be called a moderate). In fact, the story of Ted Kennedy and First Lady Laura Bush learning of the September 11 attacks together while working on education reform is part of the legend of Washington itself.
And if obstructionism of the opposing party isn’t enough, the left has been adamantly committed to obstructing the American people from even knowing the details of the legislation. Americans were promised transparent negotiations on CSPAN, and several days to read and understand legislation. Poll after poll shows a majority of Americans opposed to what they do know about the legislation, yet Congress arrogantly moved forward without allowing any meaningful time to read and deliberate in order to meet arbitrary political benchmarks. This morning’s vote took place less than 48 hours after the legislation was significantly altered in the Reid Amendment. As fiercely independent and health care reform advocate New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday: “…when I talk to Congressman and Senators and say ‘what’s in the bill’ none of them really know…I don’t know how you can intelligently decide whether to vote for it or not if you don’t know what it’s going to do.”
So why is there this rush toward partisan obstructionism on the left? Is it merely for an historical achievement other than huge deficit spending bills for President Obama to hang his first-term hat on? And if so, isn’t a bipartisan compromise with actual reform measures worth more in political capital than a narrowly divided legislative package that serves nobody’s interests except those of the White House? President Bush, as a former governor, understood the desperate situation in many of America’s public school systems and urgently cared about reform. He knew that for it to succeed, Democrats would have to be on board from the beginning. If President Obama actually cares about health care reform, why has his leadership in this process been limited to Democrat-only closed-door caucus meetings and Organizing for America political rallies? Why have we not seen Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) be invited to one single meeting at the White House in the past eight months?
The narrative that conservatives have obstructed and offered no alternatives is literally and factually debunked. It simply isn’t true nor does it make any sense. Ideas like selling insurance across state lines or allowing individuals to carry their insurance from job to job aren’t ideas of the past or “more of the same,” as the left likes to falsely describe conservative alternatives. They are meaningful conservative ideas that cost nothing and possibly would have broken the logjam we see in the Senate today. Real reform has been obstructed, and unfortunately the obstructionism has come from the very authors of the legislation that nobody in Congress or America can stand to see passed.