Friday, August 07, 2009

The right to kill health care reform

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers told a National Press Club luncheon last month that he plans to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to declare that health care is "a right" in America. He said it would answer the "fundamental question, 'Is health care a constitutional right?'"

"I mean, do you have a right to health care in the American system of government or not?" he asked. "Well, we believe that people do and we're introducing a constitutional amendment just to make it real clear so that you don't have to infer or assume that that's a given and all that."

Sounds like the Democrats have been having some interesting conversations behind closed doors.

Chairman Conyers wouldn't be trying to amend the Constitution unless someone had pointed out to him that nobody in America has the right to have their health care bills paid by somebody else.

Health care isn't a right. Free speech is a right.

This explains why the Democrats are so frustrated by the angry protests at town hall meetings across the country, where free speech threatens to sink their plans for free health care.

On Thursday, Senate Democrats were at the White House listening to senior adviser David Axelrod and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina tell them how to handle their constituents at town hall meetings during the August recess. The advisers, who have never run for office, told the senators to prepare thoroughly, explain how health care reform will benefit people who currently have insurance, and "punch back twice as hard" if they get hit with criticism.

It's easy to imagine the senators, who have run for office, sitting around the table with their true thoughts concealed behind their professional 'yes-I'm-listening' faces. Here's what they're thinking:

"Do you know who I am?"

The official administration talking point, voiced by the White House, the Democratic National Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid, is that the protests are phony, ginned up by lobbyists for the insurance industry and the Republicans who are said to be in their pocket.

But the people who have had their names on a ballot know better. They've seen the mail and they've seen the polls. They can read, they can count, and they can tell the difference between a busload of paid demonstrators and a roomful of angry voters.

So why are they playing along with this strategy of dissing the protesters? Why are they insulting people who are standing in the hot sun outside a congressman's office, some of them leaning on walkers and some of them carrying picket signs, waiting to express their outrage over the health care reform bills that have been passed by the House committees?

In order to understand the strategy, you have to think like a political operative. The object of the game is to win, and winning is defined as getting a bill passed. It counts as a win even if it passes each committee by one vote, even if it passes each house by one vote, even if it gets out of conference by one vote, even if it has to be amended at three o'clock in the morning and strong-armed through the House and Senate with the "reconciliation" tactic that requires 51 votes in the Senate instead of 60.

In this mindset, the goal is to identify the individual lawmakers who can be pressured, cajoled, bribed or forced to vote yes.

So the point of telling everyone that the protests are phony is to convince those few key lawmakers that they should not be intimidated by the throngs of angry people jeering at them. The nasty, Nazi-invoking, sarcastic tone of the comments about the protests helps convey the message that no sophisticated person takes these boors seriously, and a responsible lawmaker will ignore them and vote with President Obama.

America Wants To Know doesn't think it will work. People who get elected to the House and Senate are very good at what they do. And what they do is get elected.

As an example, read this e-mail from Senator Dianne Feinstein, which was sent to us two months after we wrote asking her to please read the health care bill before voting on it, instead of going along with the kind of rush that was used to pass the October bailout, the stimulus bill, or the House cap-and-trade legislation (by the way, we never said anything about opposing "a public healthcare option"):

Subject: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein responding to your message
Date: Thu, Aug 6, 2009 3:30 pm

Dear Ms. Shelley:

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to a public healthcare option in healthcare reform legislation. I am pleased that you took the time to write to me on an important issue facing our country, and I welcome this opportunity to explain my views.

I support reforming our healthcare system. The key is to find a healthcare plan that provides coverage, as well as limits cost. My colleagues in the Senate and I have been working on this, but it is a difficult issue and must be carefully thought out. I hope that the Senate Finance Committee will propose a bill which will lay out a way in which we can accomplish these goals and can be effectively merged with the bill passed by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Other health reforms are also necessary. I strongly believe that any healthcare reform legislation should prohibit coverage denial based on preexisting conditions. Reducing healthcare costs is absolutely essential. Between 2000 and 2007, combined profits for 10 of the country's largest publically traded insurance companies rose 428 percent. I am concerned about the astronomical growth of entitlement spending, which makes up 56 percent of all federal dollars spent in 2009. Health reform must bend the healthcare cost curve, slowing the growth of entitlements in order to reduce our nation's debt and budget deficit.

Any Senate health reform bill must improve California's complex health care system, and please know that I am working hard with my colleagues to make health care affordable for all Americans, without adding to the federal deficit.

Again, thank you for writing. If you have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Now, that is how a successful politician answers the mail. She's strongly in favor of puppies and kittens and firmly against bad things happening to people. She's "concerned" and she's "working hard" and she wants "to make health care affordable for all Americans, without adding to the federal deficit."

How's she going to vote on the comprehensive health care reform bill?

There isn't going to be a comprehensive health care reform bill.

The skilled politicians who have survived a thousand political battles to arrive on Capitol Hill are not going to let a rookie president end their careers. The only question now is whether they'll tell him in private or we'll all get to watch it play out in public.

Buy some popcorn and Sno-Caps. This could be the blockbuster of the summer.

Copyright 2009

Editor's note: You might be interested in the earlier posts, "Gazing into the future" and "Yes we can and no we won't" and "Tom Daschle: Done."