The President’s new version of Obamacare, and his method of passing it, are not popular with the American people. Dubbed the Health Care Nuclear Option, this tactic will only further anger the American by sidetracking the filibuster in the Senate and creating an even more highly charged partisan atmosphere in Congress. The content of Obamacare, and the strategies being employed to pass it, violates one of our nation’s core first principles: the consent of the governed. Our Republic is not a democracy where bare 51 vote majorities rule. Throughout our nation’s history most major legislative changes in Washington have historically been bipartisan and President Obama’s effort clearly falls short of that tradition.
As we reported late last week:
The Health Care Nuclear Option, also known as reconciliation, is being considered by liberal politicians to insure that Obamacare makes it to the President’s desk by Easter. According to The New York Times, the plan is to have the President submit reconciliation legislation to be posted on the internet this weekend. The legislation will be crafted in a manner so that it can be passed using special reconciliation procedures created solely to enact laws to reduce the deficit as part of the annual budget. The next step is for the President to conduct his half day bipartisan summit at the Blair House on February 25th. With that faux-bipartisan stunt over with, the President will be free to pass legislation in a partisan manner that tosses aside the regular rules of business in the Senate.
Americans treasure the idea that our Republic was set up so that the power of the federal government is derived from the consent of the people. The extraordinary state power to pass legislation that puts the government in control of more private health care decisions should only be done with the clear consent of the American people. The Mount Vernon Statement released on February 17, 2010, a document defining the conservative movement’s first principles, states:
We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.
The Mount Vernon Statement argues that “at this important time, we need a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. It defends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It traces authority to the consent of the governed.” President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) must seek consent of the governed to move forward on Obamacare. But they are not.
There is no consent of the governed for Obamacare. As a matter of fact, there is a consensus that the President’s top down approach to reforming health care has the explicit opposition of the American people. Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) was elected to represent the liberal state of Massachusetts in the Senate by running against Obamacare. The left likes to say that this was just one election. But so was the 2008 elections. The Founders never intended a change in policy as sweeping as Obamacare to be decided by just one election. That is why Senators are not up for reelection in every cycle. The Senate is designed to slow down the passions of the moment in favor of a more deliberative and settled policy.
That is why all of the major policy changes in our nation’s history have been enacted with strong bipartisan support. When Medicare passed in 1965 there was bipartisan support for the bill. Democrat Senators supported by a 57-7 margin and Republicans supported by a 13-17 margin (final Senate vote 70-24). In the House, Medicare passed by a 307-116 margin with House Republicans splitting 70-68 in the vote. President Johnson signed the bill into law after bipartisan majorities supported this controversial new safety net program.
And President Ronald Reagan got strong bipartisan consent for his revolutionary tax reform act of 1986. The House approved the measure 292-136 and the Senate passed it by a landslide 97 to 3 vote. More recently Republicans and Democrats worked together to enact a major reform of our nation’s welfare system in 1996. President Bill Clinton signed welfare reform into law after over 20 Democratic Senators joined with the Republican majority to pass the bill by a 74 -24 margin. That is the kind of bipartisan reform the White House should be pursuing.
Real Clear Politics (RCP) has links to Obamacare polls that indicate that more Americans oppose Obamacare than support it. The average RCP poll indicates that 38% are in favor of the President’s health care reforms versus 53% who are against it (an approximate 15% deficit). It is clear that the American people do not consent to Obamacare. The only bipartisan action on Obamacare will be Democrats voting against the measure. There is broad bipartisan agreement that the government’s treatment of health care needs serious reform, yet there is not bipartisan agreement that Obamacare solves these issues. The President’s strategy to pull and end around the opposition of the American citizens and the filibuster in the Senate is a true affront to the ideas of the consent of the governed and comprehensive reform efforts need strong bipartisan support to get passed. It is time for President Obama to scrap Obamacare so as to proceed with negotiation between Republicans and Democrats starting from scratch.