Where is that honesty and transparency we were promised during the campaign? The bipartisanship? The new politics? That's apparently so yesterday. The Obama administration is planning to give some Chicago spin to politics on Capitol Hill by pushing through Obama's plans on health care and energy without GOP input or votes through a tactic reminiscent to those of Mayor William Daley. Lori Montgomery writes in the Washington Post:
Senior members of the Obama administration are pressing lawmakers to use a shortcut to drive the president's signature initiatives on health care and energy through Congress without Republican votes, a move that many lawmakers say would fly in the face of President Obama's pledge to restore bipartisanship to Washington.
Republicans are howling about the proposal to expand health coverage and tax greenhouse gas emissions without their input, warning that it could irrevocably damage relations with the new president.
"That would be the Chicago approach to governing: Strong-arm it through," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who briefly considered joining the Obama administration as commerce secretary. "You're talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You're talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement and throwing them in the Chicago River."
The shortcut, known as "budget reconciliation," would allow Obama's health and energy proposals to be rolled into a bill that cannot be filibustered, meaning Democrats could push it through the Senate with 51 votes, instead of the usual 60. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both used the tactic to win deficit-reduction packages, while George W. Bush used it to push through his signature tax cuts.
Budget Director Peter Orszag is indicating the administration is not taking the idea off the table, despite objections from the GOP and some moderate Democratic Senators . Blanche Lincoln, Senator from Arkansas, for example, hase concerns that such a step would create a "divisive atmosphere" and shift the power in the party to its left-wing.
Lincoln is one of seven Democrats who last week joined 21 Republican senators in declaring their opposition to using reconciliation to expedite Obama's plan to auction off permits for the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, a proposal known as cap and trade. That legislation "is likely to influence nearly every feature of the U.S. economy," the letter says, adding that any move to put it on a fast track or to limit debate "would be inconsistent with the administration's stated goals of bipartisanship, cooperation, and openness."
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which is handling health care, also has spoken against reconciliation, arguing that he would rather have a health-care plan that can win broad, bipartisan support than a narrowly drawn proposal passed only by Democrats. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has argued against reconciliation as well. "There are many more problems with using reconciliation than is commonly appreciated," Conrad said yesterday, after he and House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.) met with Obama at the White House. The topic of reconciliation came up "in passing," Conrad said, but no decisions were made.
One big problem, Conrad said, is that reconciliation was conceived as a way to force hard budget choices, such as tax increases or spending cuts, not as a means to advance substantive legislation.
We were promised by Barack Obama there was not a red America or a blue America; that bipartisanship would be a guiding principle of his Presidency; that honesty and transparency would be hallmarks of his presidency. Those promises? Gone and for the most part, forgotten. Instead we have stealth provisions slipped into bills that would eliminate debts of home borrowers if lenders make even trivial errors in the disclosure statements that accompany loans; the elimination of laws requiring workers on federal contracts prove they are citizens or legal residents of America; and now a legislative tactic twisted beyond its rationale to cram down Obama's ideology down America's collective throat.