Saturday, January 8, 2011

House of charades

By Don Klein

Congress is in session and it is time again for that famous and well-worn Washington game called, "Congressional charade." How better to spend your limited time as a member of Congress than seeming to be doing something when actually you are not.

The burlesque occupying the members of the House of Representatives through its second week of the new session is called repeal of the Health Act passed last year when Congress was controlled by Democrats.

It is a mockery because everyone knows, especially the Republican leaders of the House, that the bill will never be enacted even if it passes with flying colors in the Republican dominated lower chamber of the national legislature.

"It’s symbolic," John Boehner, the new speaker of the House admitted, "we promised our constituents." Known for saying his party is fulfilling the desires of the American people he ignored the fact that the majority of voters in the latest poll by CNN have an exact opposite view of the Health Care Act.

Over 60 percent said they like it and in fact many wish it went further than it does.

But that is not the only fact the Republicans en masse dismiss when they talk about the law. The Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan statistical arm of Congress, claimed that the Health Act will save taxpayers $230 billion over the next decade against the alternative of doing nothing and would cover an additional 32 million Americans.

Republican after Republican who were asked about this deficit increase that would result from the repeal deny this simple fact. "It’s got to cost more," Rep. Mike Ross, (R-Arkansas) said, when you add millions more to the insurance rolls. The GOP has been in the act of denying facts ever since George W. Bush became president.

Recall how after the Army searched for months over hill and dale in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction and found none, then President Bush insisted there WMD’s still were threatening the nation. Remember Vice President Cheney saying deficits were good, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Speaker Boehner in his remarks to House members on the first day of the 112th Congress said there would be open sessions on all bills, then exempted the health repeal effort from debate and amendments. He also said that all new legislation offered must be accompanied by an explanation of what funds will be cut or trimmed to avoid adding to the deficit.

That too was violated by the leadership in exempting from the rule the health proposal and a handful of other favorite GOP pieces of legislation slated for action by the party. Of course who can forget the massive addition to the deficit buried in the bosom of a massive tax cut for the wealthy squeezed from Obama by the Republicans during the lame duck session last year.

To them it is a game: sounds like jobs through tax cuts for millionaires . Looks like acting for the people. Sounds like open House rules. Charade. Charade. Charade. It is all a game, but a dangerous one. Might as well play Russian roulette.

The reason the health repeal won’t work is because the Senate is still controlled by the Democrats and is unlikely even to take up the repeal. If they do it should be defeated, ending the effort there. If by chance it should pass the Senate, Obama will veto it and Congress will not be able to override the president’s rejection.

"Don’t you think it’s a waste of time?" a reporter asked Boehner.

"No, I do not," he said. "I believe it’s our responsibility to do what we said we were going to do. And I think it’s pretty clear to the American people that the best health care system in the world is going to go down the drain if we don’t act."

Even though health repeal will be dead on arrival, the GOP leaders of the House insist on pushing it through against the will of the people, and against their own commitment to lower the deficit, and against all reasonable hope of final enactment. The question we should ask is why they do things just to be symbolic during a period of severe unemployment and economic stress in the nation?

Why isn’t the House trying to do something about stimulating employment? They criticized the Democrats when they were in power for not doing enough to blunt joblessness.

In their way of thinking, all that matters if what is good for the insurance companies which after repeal would be able to reject covering the needy. Next target will be social security and medicare?

The deplorable fact is that nothing significant will happen during the next two years because the noxious bills the House may pass will never be approved by the Senate. And the Senate will never get anything done until they revise the filibuster rule, which is not a certainty at all.

So welcome to the 112th Congress which will be noted for spinning wheels, attending masquerade parties on the House and Senate floors, and playing endless charades. Even with the reduction by members in cutting House office costs by five percent they will still be the best Congress money can buy. But the money will come from corporations and the waste paid for by taxpayers.