“Preacher was talking, there’s a sermon he gave
He said every man’s conscience is vile and depraved
You cannot depend on it to be your guide
When it’s you who must keep it satisfied.”
(Bob Dylan—The Man in the Long Black Coat)
I like Joan Osborne’s cover of this Bob Dylan song. What has me thinking of “vileness” and “depravity” this crisp and sunny March day? Last week’s all day health care gabfest. I had neither the time nor the inclination to watch the “Blair House Health Care Summit”. But I did get to watch countless video clips of “Prime Minister” Obama at the meeting. I also read and watched assorted commentaries and opinions about which side scored the most political points.
Why did Obama insist on putting us through this nonsense? This was promoted as a good faith effort to reach “common ground” on how the federal government should control 300 million American’s health care. The results of the summit, of course, showed us just the opposite. Each side’s position hardened in the course of the meeting, as all sentient beings knew would happen—and in fact should have happened. Many so-called good government types think this is a travesty for some reason. While the current health care system is clearly suboptimal, Prime Minister Obama’s proposal would make it much worse. Sometimes the two political parties really do fundamentally disagree.
That Dylan song and the Feb. 25th “Summit” reminded me that the “worldview” (or Weltanschauung if you prefer) of our Founding Fathers was more akin to the first-person voice in the song than to our modern intelligentsia. The Founders essentially held the belief that when left unchecked, man’s nature (to put it crudely) could become “vile and depraved”. They were Christians who believed in the non-perfectibility of man.
The corner stone of the constitution’s architecture was designed to make it as difficult as possible, but not impossible, to pass significant legislation (and even harder to change the Constitution itself). The Founders wanted to limit the ability of any one group gaining too much power over any other group. They did this through a subtly constructed constitution designed to maintain checks and balances among all key constituencies.
But the president appeared blissfully ignorant of such procedural niceties when he personally implied that “we” might have to invoke the so-called reconciliation procedures. He seemed to be speaking on behalf of the Senate. What happened to the Separation of Powers?
California has much more power in the House of Representatives than Wyoming (53 representatives in California to 1 in Wyoming). But they have equal power in the Senate, as they each have 2 Senators. Each legislative body is also allowed to pass its own procedural rules. In order to limit a filibuster from preventing a vote on the Senate floor (filibustering itself is a Senate procedure) the concept of cloture was established in the beginning of the 20th century. Cloture is essentially a vote to end a threatened or actual filibuster. It now requires 60 votes by Senate rule, therefore, to pass legislation in the Senate. It used to require a 2/3rds vote and, before that, a single Senator filibustering, theoretically, could permanently prevent a vote from proceeding.
So what is this reconciliation process that the head of the executive branch, our erstwhile Prime Minister Obama, threatening on behalf of the Senate to invoke? It was established in 1974 with very specific and narrow purposes relating to budgetary issues. It was never intended for major legislation. But like all government rules, it seems, it has evolved gradually in unforeseen ways. Enough so, the Senate’s own super majority rule is now threatened by the use of reconciliation for this health care legislation. Does the Senate really want to do this?
The power of individual Senators will seriously be weakened if Prime Minister Obama gets his way. Checks and Balances between the two legislative bodies will deteriorate significantly. The creepy crawling stench of nihilism will continue its nascent ascension in our nation if this legislation is passed by so-called “reconciliation”.
“Feel the pulse and vibration and the rumbling force
Somebody is out there beating on a dead horse
She never said nothing there was nothing she wrote
She gone with the man in the long black coat”