Although it seems like an eminently sensible – and indeed, honorable – thing for Congress to allow the American people to have access to the health care reform bill before it is voted upon (remember that whole line in the Declaration of Independence about governments “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”?), it appears like that’s just not going to happen.
As John Fund writes in The Wall Street Journal:
Eight Democratic Senators have written Majority Leader Harry Reid and asked him to post the final health care bill on the Internet for at least 72 hours before any vote. They also want all amendments posted before they are debated.
The Democratic dissenters are picking up on an amendment first proposed by GOP Senator Jim Bunning during the Finance Committee’s deliberations on health care. Mr. Bunning said he had been inundated with complaints from voters who “are tired of us taking the easy way out, tired of us not reading or having the time to read the bills.” Mr. Bunning’s amendment was voted down 12 to 11 after Finance Chairman Max Baucus said he could not waste any more time before passing a bill. Only Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln sided with the Republican minority in supporting it.
What does Congress have to hide? This is, after all, one-sixth of the American economy. The people have a right to know what their representatives are voting on. Right?
Unfortunately, as the San Francisco Examiner pointed out yesterday, that’s unlikely to happen.
Not only is the actual language of what is likely to become the main legislative vehicle for Obama’s signature health care reform not available on the Internet, it hasn’t been given to members of the key Senate committees or the Congressional Budget Office.
All that is available to those worried about a massive government takeover of our health care system is a 262-page description of the bill’s provisions. Bill descriptions mean nothing and bind nobody.
Brian Darling, a legislative analyst with the Heritage Foundation, believes the Senate Democratic leadership intends to use an obscure parliamentary maneuver to bring the actual health care reform proposal to the Senate floor in order to prevent a Republican-led filibuster. Once debate starts in the Senate, Democrats will only need 51 votes to add the public-option provision they have long favored.
Senator Bunning continues to press on for transparency, however, with plans to introduce another resolution to the same effect next week. According to the Washington Examiner, “This is similar to a bipartisan effort in the House, but Bunning’s resolution would require not only that the bill be posted online and be accessible to the public for three days prior to a vote, but that the legislation include a price tag from the Congressional Budget Office.”
Hopefully, more Congressmen will remember who put them in office to start with and support Sen. Bunning’s efforts. If not… they may have to be reminded in the mid-term elections.