I'm Sorry, Madam Speaker -- the Republicans Won't Let Me Vote for It

When my daughter was a teenager, her friends would occasionally phone with an invitation  to a party or outing which she was reluctant to attend. I'd hear her say, "Let me ask my mom." She'd cover the phone receiver and tell me about the invitation. I'd take one look at her face and ask, "Do you want to go?" She'd shake her head no. So I would give her some mom-cover. "Tell them I said no."

My daughter would then tell her friend, "Sorry, my mom says I can't go...yeah, you know how parents are."

I was reminded of this while watching two House Democrats last weekend on Fox News Sunday discussing the upcoming health care reform vote. The looks on the faces of Representatives Altmire and Adler mirrored the look on my daughter's face, as if they were being asked to go somewhere they really didn't want to go, but had no idea how to refuse the invitation. How does a congressman tell the Speaker of the House and the president of the United States that he just doesn't want to go to their party?

The Democrats in the House are in this pickle because the president and their leadership have decided to inflict comprehensive health care reform on an unwilling America through a process called reconciliation.

Democratic sources have said the general plan is for the House to pass the version the Senate passed last year with 60 votes. Meanwhile, negotiators in both chambers would agree to a separate package of changes to that legislation. That package would go before the Senate under reconciliation rules.

In other words, it's not comprehensive health care reform that is going to be voted on under reconciliation rules. It's the fix of the Senate health care bill that will be voted on and passed by a bare majority in the Senate. In a New York Post article, "Nancy's Nutty New Rules," Grace-Marie Turner explains the process that Speaker Pelosi has embarked on to pass comprehensive health care reform:

To use reconciliation, Pelosi must first get House members to vote for the exact bill the Senate passed in December. That is, the House would "keep the process moving" so both the House and Senate could pass a second bill to fix things members don't like in the Senate measure.

Ms. Pelosi is asking pro-life Democrats to vote for the pro-abortion Senate bill. She is asking the progressive caucus to vote for a bill without a public option. She is asking Blue Dogs to vote for the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase, because in order for the process to "keep moving," the House has to pass the exact same Senate bill first. Then those same House Democrats have to trust Harry Reid that the Senate will pass legislation that will address all their concerns. And they also must believe that the president will not merely sign the Senate bill into law, claim it as a major achievement, and move on to other things, like cap-and-trade. This is the party that a lot of House Democrats are leery of attending. How do they escape?

Unfortunately, congressmen don't bring their moms with them to Washington. However, I may have discovered the next-best thing. On March 9, Rush Limbaugh interviewed Karl Rove. They discussed the prospect of health care reform passing in the House of Representatives. Mr. Rove summarized the fix the House Democrats find themselves in as Ms. Pelosi is pressures them to come to her party:

... she's got a lot of things that she can tell people we'll take care of you. But, on the other hand, she has a heavy lift because, at the end of the day, her argument is, if you've got a problem with this bill, we can take care of it in reconciliation. Well, what happens if in the Senate they somehow pass it through the House, they get the pro-lifers to say, you know, I'll vote for a pro-abortion bill; they get the deficit hawks to vote for a bill that is broken and is going to cause huge deficits; they get the liberals who want more of a public option, and they say we'll fix it for you in the Senate reconciliation. And what happens if the Senate Republicans can keep them from fixing things in Senate reconciliation? 

My suggestion is for Senate Republicans to rescue the House Democrats (and the American people) by promising to block the Senate fix. Senator McConnell, accompanied by Senator Kyl, new Senator Brown, and perhaps even Senator McCain, should hold a press conference during which they state unequivocally that no fix to the comprehensive health care reform bill will ever make it out of the Senate, reconciliation or not. Every delaying maneuver known to man will be applied to the legislation. Having this pledge signed by all 41 Republican Senators would be a nice touch.

Now the Democrat congressmen can tell Nancy Pelosi and President Obama, "I'm sorry, I can't vote for the bill. The Republicans won't let me." Then they can all get together with the mainstream media and the White House and gripe about how mean the Republicans are. Don't worry, House Democrats. We'll never let on how grateful you are for the cover.

Carol Peracchio is a registered nurse.