President Obama and Democrats in Congress are readying a procedure known as reconciliation to railroad Obamacare through Congress. This abuse of process has been called the Healthcare Nuclear Option, because it’s a way to avoid a filibuster in the Senate.
Reconciliation was created in the early ’70s to allow Congress to balance the budget with a mere majority vote. It would allow Obamacare to be fast tracked with no hearings, no extended debate and no opportunity for members to engage in an honest give-and-take on changes to the package.
Obamacare is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Although most Americans want Congress to "leave" it, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) don’t care. Their desire to "take" power means they’ll use every means necessary to pass it.
It is important for opponents to use every means at their disposal to fight this idea. One of the few resources that the minority party has is that it can offer unlimited amendments at the end of the reconciliation process in the Senate and they can be issues that have no relation whatsoever to health care. All that a senator has to do is offer the non-healthcare related amendment, then waive the rules of reconciliation that limit the subject matter of amendments. It is done on most reconciliation measures and is considered a frequently used procedure to force votes on tough issues.
Liberals need the House to pass the existing Senate-passed version of Obamacare. That bill includes no public option, does provide federal funding of abortion and would slap a tax on high-end so-called Cadillac healthcare plans.
Part of the deal would be to follow this bill with a reconciliation measure that would make some changes to Obamacare that are demanded by House members. If such a bill comes to the Senate, conservative senators have the right to offer an amendment on any issue -- if he offers the amendment, then makes a motion to waive the budget act, then demands a roll call vote.
Here are 10 ideas that would greatly complicate the Obamacare debate:
1. Restoring Second Amendment rights to the residents of the District of Columbia: Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) offered an amendment last year to the bill that allowed House voting rights to the representative of the District of Columbia that would have allowed D.C. residents to register a handgun. The amendment passed 62-36. This was a means to codify the D.C. v. Heller Supreme Court decision establishing that the 2nd Amendment is an individual right.
2. Expedited Supreme Court Review for Individual Mandate: A key to Obamacare is the mandate that all Americans must purchase health insurance or run afoul of the IRS. It’s reasonable for senators to offer an amendment providing for immediate Supreme Court jurisdiction of any state’s challenge to the constitutionality of the federal government’s law forcing residents of a state to buy a private service offered by private corporations.
3. Drill Baby Drill: The American people like low gas prices. During the campaign for President, John McCain (R-Ariz.) received thunderous applause when he lead the chant "Drill, Baby, Drill." Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) introduced legislation in 2008 to speed up drilling by bypassing the Department of Interior leasing process and allowing states to share in drilling revenues.
4. Permanent Repeal of the Death Tax: Right now the Estate Tax, imposed at death, is zero. Next year, though, the highest rate shoots up to 55%. Two House members, Representatives Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) and Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.), have proposed a permanent repeal.
5. Prevent Same Sex marriage in D.C.: Gay marriage was recently legalized in the District of Columbia. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) has legislation that would guarantee residents of D.C. the right to vote on whether gay marriage licenses should be issued.
6. Spending Freeze: Congress shouldn’t spend new money this year. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) fought alone to offset a $10 billion package of temporary programs and Congress refused to offset this meager spending. Well, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has a version of a congressional spending freeze. The Senate could freeze all spending at fiscal year 2011 levels for the next three years with no waivers for any purpose to prove that it can live within its means. Lawmakers ought to show a spine and freeze spending right now, so that Congress does not reach the new debt limit ceiling of $14.3 trillion. Also, Republicans may want to include language banning earmarks for the year to see if the recent talk of an earmark ban is serious by Democrat leadership in the House.
7. No More Cash for Cloture: Sen. DeMint offered a rules change at the beginning of this Congress to ban offering an earmark for a vote. This idea needs to be expanded so that there are no quid pro quo earmarks for any vote on any issue. Vote buying is unethical, and lawmakers shouldn’t use taxpayer dollars to create things such as the "Cornhusker Kickback," inserted into the Senate version of Obamacare for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.).
8. End TARP: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) offered an amendment last year to end the so-called Troubled Assets Relief Program. Any discussion on the ending of bailouts would be welcome to the American people.
9. Prohibiting Global Warming Regulation and Legislation: Congress should prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from enacting backdoor global-warming regulations by amending the Clean Air Act to prevent the Regulation of greenhouse gases. This administration will block economic growth with a new bureaucratic regulatory scheme. Furthermore, senators could create a point of order against any legislation that would raise the price Americans pay for their energy.
10. Terrorist Trials: Congress has the constitutional authority to strip the courts of jurisdiction to hear certain cases. Conservatives wouldn’t want any American citizens’ right to trial be infringed, but it’s reasonable to strip the courts of jurisdiction to hear the cases of international terrorist like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who claims to be the mastermind of the September 11th act of war.
The Obama Administration is aiming to use reconciliation to steamroll the American people and to pervert the original intent of the budget reconciliation process. Obamacare is unpopular and conservatives need to use this reconciliation procedure as an opportunity to discuss other ideas that are very important and supported by the American people.
Brian Darling is director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events