Commentary by Steven W. Mosher
FRONT ROYAL, Virginia, November 11, 2009 (pop.org) - By twisting the arms of freshman Democrats nearly out of their sockets, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the end of the day, managed to eke out passage of HR 3962, her health care reform bill. But her five-vote victory was so narrow that some pundits are now opining that the Senate version of the bill is dead. Don’t count on it.
With the President, Pelosi and Reid all pushing for some kind of health care legislation, the struggle against Obamacare is far from over.
The Left is furious at San Fran Nan for allowing a vote on the Stupak Amendment, which passed by a wide margin with bipartisan support. Its wide margin of passage makes Planned Parenthood and other abortion supporters even more determined to hold the line in the U.S. Senate, where they have the support of the majority of Democrat Senators and the two Republican Senators from Maine. They will seek to keep abortion in the Senate bill, then win in conference, and then count on Pelosi to deliver a party-line vote—this time without amendments allowed—in the House. As I say, the battle to keep abortion out of the bill is not over. Complacency could cost the lives of many babies.
For the moment, however, the pro-life movement can justly take pride in its political strength. Politicians are nothing if not realists, and they have just been treated to the spectacle of both Pelosi and the President caving in to pro-life pressure from within their own party. Notwithstanding their strident support of federally funded abortions, and despite the anger that their action generated among a large part of the Democrat base, they backed down.
I have no doubt that they will be back, quietly inserting abortion funding in conference and then counting on party loyalty to carry the day, but this will take time.
In the meantime, we must continue to oppose any health care reform that violates the rights of health care workers to freedom of conscience, or which denies the elderly the level of medical care they are accustomed to receiving, with the ultimate aim of reducing their number. (Think “Do not resuscitate.”) Nor should we agree to give permanent federal status, funding, and protection to Planned Parenthood, as the current bill does. Our goal must be to defund the abortion machine entirely.
I believe that the AARP has alienated much of its membership by backing this bill, given that it is today’s seniors who will sacrifice their quality of care to pay for this health care extravaganza. One may say the same about the American Medical Association, the majority of whose independent entrepreneurs do not want to be turned into government drones, forced to deny needed treatment to their patients by faceless bureaucrats. Both of these organizations will undoubtedly see their membership rolls shrink in the future.
As for the American public in general, there is growing skepticism about many aspects of this legislation. Needed reforms such as setting limits on court awards and increasing insurance competition and portability are given short shrift in the legislation. At the same time, its 2,000 pages create dozens of new bureaucracies to decide what kinds of treatments are available and to whom. Even those who are not pro-life have serious doubts about this legislation on such grounds, polls show.
Pro-lifers must decide now if making modest improvements to Obamacare will produce a bill they can live with. I, for one, am not sure how many amendments would be necessary to clean up the bill so that its provisions no longer threaten unborn babies and infirm elderly. A Stupak Amendment is clearly not enough. It includes no conscience protection, and does nothing to prohibit hastening death. Other shortcomings abound. The House bill, for instance, permanently funds pornographic sex education for all students. It sets up an Institute of Medicine to study and make recommendations about Medicare, which may be the Trojan Horse to introduce rationing into the health care system.
When the Senate finally passes a bill, both it and the House bill will be sent to a conference committee. The conference committee will consist of both Senators and Congressmen and will be chosen by the leadership of both parties in the House and Senate. The committee’s job will be to forge the two bills into one, called the reconciled bill.
Here’s where things get dicey (again). The conference committee, which will be dominated by Pelosi and Reid appointees, will have an enormous amount of discretion. It could report out legislation that bears little resemblance to that previously passed by the two houses. The reconciled bill could contain abortion coverage, for example, even if neither the House nor the Senate bill contained this provision. Or it could have a “public option” inserted, or stronger penalties for employers who do not have insurance for their employees. One insider with decades of experience in Washington puts it bluntly: “Anything can happen in a conference committee!”
The reconciled bill will then go to the House and the Senate to be voted on. This time, no amendments will be allowed. Congressmen must vote yea or nay. You can imagine the kinds of pressure that will be put on the Democrat majority to vote the party line.
This final vote will probably not occur until Christmas, a time when many Americans will be focused on faith and family.
I do not intend to sit out the debate in the Senate, or be distracted from our goal of protecting the sanctity of life. We will continue to urge amendments to improve the bill.
At the same time, I can tell you candidly that, no matter how many amendments are passed, I do not believe that this legislative monstrosity serves the interests of unborn babies, or the elderly, or the rest of us.
I, for one, do not want any part of Obamacare.
Steven W. Mosher is the President of Population Research Institute.