This morning the Wall Street Journal, as should surprise no one, editorializes against using the reconciliation process to pass healthcare reform and quotes this nugget:
Democrats are only resorting to it now because their plan is in so much political trouble—within their own party, and even more among the general public—and because they’ve failed to make their case through persuasion.
“They know that this will take courage,” Nancy Pelosi said in an interview over the weekend, speaking of the Members she’ll try to strong-arm. “It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare,” the Speaker continued. “But the American people need it, why are we here? We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress.”
Bold words for a woman sitting in one of the safest of safe seats in the Congress. I also note that both Social Security and Medicare were passed by majorities of both political parties in both houses of Congress. Can anyone reasonably claim that will be the case with the version of healthcare reform making its way through the Congress now?
Imagine this. Democrats pass their vision of healthcare reform which none but the most sanguine genuinely believe will do much other than increase healthcare spending and they pass it via the reconciliation process. In doing so not only will they have gone against the counsel of senior members of their own party (Robert Byrd within the last year and Joe Biden just a few years ago), they will have done it against the opinion of the American people. In November voters, angered by the lack of due attention to the more pressing problems of the financial system and employment not to mention this exercise in power politics, vote in Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.
In January 2011 there might be a new Speaker of the House and a new Senate majority leader and there would be no credible barriers to that new Congress using every device of power politics to overturn everything the present Congress has accomplished to date and thwart anything the president might wish to accomplish in the future.
It’s not a perfect parallel but I’m reminded of Thomas More’s speech in Robert Bolt’s play, A Man for All Seasons:
Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
I think that Democrats should think twice before enacting such a sweeping piece of social legislation on a straight party line basis. Not all seats are as safe as Speaker Pelosi’s House seat and that includes the speaker’s chair.