Update: Liveblogging of today’s House debate is here.
The House vote on Speaker Pelosi’s government health care bill is set for Saturday morning. She is scrambling to buy off recalcitrant Democrats on two of very issues that Rep. Joe Wilson and other House Republicans called out the White House for: abortion and illegal immigrant coverage. The wheeling and dealing is taking place behind closed doors. Once again, the Democrats who promised transparency are breaking their own promise to publish the final bill publicly 72 hours before the vote.
Which dovetails perfectly with my column today on Democrats and the death of deliberative democracy. I’ve uploaded the entire 2006 report I referenced in the piece right here (PDF) for your reading amusement. Just callin’ em out.
The death of deliberative democracy
by Michelle Malkin
In 2006, the minority party in Congress issued a dire report on the “unprecedented erosion of the Democratic process.” Democrat Rep. Louise Slaughter, then the ranking member of the House Rules Committee, authored the scathing document. She blasted the majority Republicans’ violations of “procedural fairness,” short-circuiting of debate, and late-night meetings “to discourage Members and the press from participating” in legislative deliberations. My, how history repeats itself.
Fast-forward to 2009. The Imperial Congress has returned. The oppressed have become the oppressors. Democrats have met the enemies of deliberative democracy and it is them.
Three years ago, the Democrats complained of House Republicans rushing through conference reports “before Members could read them.” Sound vaguely familiar? They urged their colleagues in power to “spend more time on major, substantive legislation” instead of ramming things through. Déjà vu, anyone? The Slaughter report pleaded for more transparency and public access: “Regular order should be the rule, not the exception.” Instead of meeting late at night or early in the morning, the Dems called on the majority to operate “during regular ‘business’ hours so that Members and the press can attend and participate.”
Three years later, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is jamming a 1,900-page health care takeover bill through Congress for a hasty Saturday vote while members of her own party revolt against strong-arm tactics. Upwards of 40 pro-life Democrats have objected to the plan’s government abortion subsidies. Majority leaders evaded sunlight by keeping a compromise amendment on the matter out of the version of the bill made available to the public. As of Thursday afternoon (less than two days before the scheduled vote), Pelosi had yet to decide whether to permit an abortion ban amendment to her health care bill.
Pelosi’s “most ethical,” open, and transparent House ever ordered Capitol police to block a GOP staffer from attending the public unveiling of the health care reform plan last week. A week before that, Democrat Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) locked Republicans out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee room to prevent them from meeting when Democrats weren’t present.
In June, Pelosi’s Imperial Congress severely curtailed debate on the House cap-and-tax bill and rammed a 309-page manager’s amendment through the legislative grinder at 3 a.m., which no one read before the vote just hours later. As GOP Rep. Mike Pence pointed out on the House floor, the “debate” was a “travesty.” So much for procedural fairness: 224 GOP amendments were denied by the majority.
In April, the House passed a $3.6 trillion federal budget in the middle of the night with phony fiscal restraint amendments that leaders all admitted would be thrown out during conference behind closed doors.
In February, House and Senate conferees larded up the stimulus bill with pork galore behind closed doors while President Obama denied the existence of earmarks with a straight face. South Carolina Rep. and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn snuck in a provision intended to punish governors who chose to turn down federal stimulus funds. The Democrats broke their high-minded pledge to give Americans 48 hours to read the bill before passage. “Urgency” demanded it.
On the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid is playing Harry Houdini with his health care package. After announcing a deal last week and telling the public that he was sending his proposal to the Congressional Budget Office for scoring, there is still no actual bill to review. When 40 Republican senators demanded to see the bill, he played “you show me yours” and then admitted that, indeed, “there is no bill to release publicly – it does not exist.”
Emitting more vapor than an industrial humidifier, Reid still holds out the possibility of abusing the budget reconciliation process to force the government health care takeover through with a simple majority and limited debate.
Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer performed an end-run around debate over her massive global warming bill on Thursday by using a “nuclear option” maneuver on the Senate Environment and Public Works. She and 10 Democrats rammed through the legislation without considering amendments and in defiance of GOP protests.
The 2006 minority Democrats’ report on the death of deliberative democracy condemned the then-GOP leadership for becoming “the arrogant and corrupt majority they despised and condemned in their minority days.” And now? Et tu, majority Democrats? Same as it ever was.