A “Self-Extinction” Rule

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

After many months of arm-twisting, cajolery, and backroom sweetheart deals, the Obama administration and the House leadership, at this writing, still don’t have the votes to enact the Senate version of the health care legislation and send it on to the President for his signature. House members don’t want an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill for varying reasons. Trying to break the stalemate, Speaker Pelosi is determined to use an Alice in Wonderland solution to the Democrats’ dilemma: Adopt a “self-extinction rule” that would pass the bill without squeamish Democrats having to vote yes or no on the Senate bill they loathe. If this sleight-of-hand gambit succeeds, it will be the most outlandish affront to reality since Bobby Ewing miraculously came back to life after being killed off on “Dallas” when the writers for the show began the next season by saying his death was only a “dream.”

Life is, indeed, stranger than fiction—on the Potomac at least. I can only imagine the howls in the mainstream media if ideological troglodytes in the Republican Party were attempting to ram through a controversial bill opposed by the public without even having to vote on it. There would be hell to pay. And there will be hell to pay if this bill passes using this method—not in the fawning media but at the ballot box next November.

It’s time for the supporters of this legislation to “man up.” For months they have scurried around in back rooms debasing the legislative process in attempts to pass a bill the public doesn’t want. They have hidden final legislative language until right before votes, rigged the cost estimates for the bills, and substituted prestidigitation for the power of persuasion. If they are convinced that the health care legislation—whatever it is in its current manifestation—is a legacy that will endear them to Americans for ages to come, they should have the courage to vote for or against the Senate bill without resorting to downright deceit.

There is poetic justice in the fact that the maneuver the bill’s proponents want to use to pass it is called the “self-extinction rule.” It would attach amendments the House wants to place on the Senate bill to a rule instead of to the bill. The rule then would have language that “deems” the Senate bill to be passed. Once the rule is approved, the Senate bill would go to the President for his signature and the amendments would go to the Senate to be enacted there—without a vote ever occurring in the House on the Senate bill. Revolutions have occurred in some countries over smaller abuses of power than this.

If the “self-extinction rule” is successfully employed, it will be a name befitting the fate of many of the House members who vote for it. Voters are already angry over the health care legislation and the time and attention given to it while private sector workers have lost their jobs by the millions. They have had it with all of the focus in Washington being on huge expansions of government that are driving up deficits and increasing the federal debt to perilous proportions. Mass protests and Democratic losses in recent high profile elections have made it clear that a day of reckoning is coming in early November. The outlandish tactics being employed to pass the health care bill will only intensify those results. But, like Icarus sliding beneath the waves with the wax melting from his man-made wings, the bill’s proponents seem intent on challenging reality. If they persist, they deserve the fate that awaits them.

Dan Juneau is President of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

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