Saturday, March 20, 2010

Democrats offer a new budget of lies

In the final push to pass a health care overhaul, Democratic leaders on Thursday sought to sway anxious party members with a new $940 billion plan that cuts the deficit, raises Medicare revenue with a new tax on the investment income on wealthier Americans and placates unions by slashing the tax on high-end insurance plans.

The concept, backed by President Obama, is designed to build positive momentum ahead of a Sunday vote on the landmark health care overhaul, which would extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans, fill the Medicare prescription drug "doughnut" hole of limited coverage and curb insurance industry abuses. It swung two former "no" votes to the "yes" column.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer called the plan "the biggest deficit reduction bill that any member of Congress is going to have an opportunity to vote on" with hopes of swaying fiscally minded Democrats to support it.

Republicans remain steadfastly opposed to the plan, leaving Democrats to come up with all of the support themselves. "The reason House Democrats don't have the votes is because the American people know this is a government takeover of health care," said Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana.

The 153-page bill released Thursday represents repairs that Mr. Obama and House leaders requested in exchange for voting for the Senate's health care plan. If passed, the "repair" bill would also have to pass the Senate through complicated reconciliation procedures that can circumvent a Republican filibuster.

Critics of the plan already spotted two provisions that they say are tightly focused on specific states, possibly in exchange for support of the legislation similar to the now infamous "Cornhusker Kickback." They plan to rally against the bill as the final vote nears.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that Mr. Obama would postpone his Asia trip, originally scheduled to start Sunday, to help corral votes for his chief domestic agenda item.

The Congressional Budget Office analysis found that the plan would reduce the deficit by $138 billion over the next 10 years - $20 billion more than the House's original plan - and continue to drive down the deficit in later years.

More here

Slaughter House Rules

How Democrats may 'deem' ObamaCare into law, without voting

We're not sure American schools teach civics any more, but once upon a time they taught that under the U.S. Constitution a bill had to pass both the House and Senate to become law. Until this week, that is, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving to merely "deem" that the House has passed the Senate health-care bill and then send it to President Obama to sign anyway.

Under the "reconciliation" process that began yesterday afternoon, the House is supposed to approve the Senate's Christmas Eve bill and then use "sidecar" amendments to fix the things it doesn't like. Those amendments would then go to the Senate under rules that would let Democrats pass them while avoiding the ordinary 60-vote threshold for passing major legislation. This alone is an abuse of traditional Senate process.

But Mrs. Pelosi & Co. fear they lack the votes in the House to pass an identical Senate bill, even with the promise of these reconciliation fixes. House Members hate the thought of going on record voting for the Cornhusker kickback and other special-interest bribes that were added to get this mess through the Senate, as well as the new tax on high-cost insurance plans that Big Labor hates.

So at the Speaker's command, New York Democrat Louise Slaughter, who chairs the House Rules Committee, may insert what's known as a "self-executing rule," also known as a "hereby rule." Under this amazing procedural ruse, the House would then vote only once on the reconciliation corrections, but not on the underlying Senate bill. If those reconciliation corrections pass, the self-executing rule would say that the Senate bill is presumptively approved by the House—even without a formal up-or-down vote on the actual words of the Senate bill.

Democrats would thus send the Senate bill to President Obama for his signature even as they claimed to oppose the same Senate bill. They would be declaring themselves to be for and against the Senate bill in the same vote. Even John Kerry never went that far with his Iraq war machinations. As we went to press, the precise mechanics that Democrats will use remained unclear, though yesterday Mrs. Pelosi endorsed this "deem and pass" strategy in a meeting with left-wing bloggers.

This two-votes-in-one gambit is a brazen affront to the plain language of the Constitution, which is intended to require democratic accountability. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution says that in order for a "Bill" to "become a Law," it "shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate." This is why the House and Senate typically have a conference committee to work out differences in what each body passes. While sometimes one house cedes entirely to another, the expectation is that its Members must re-vote on the exact language of the other body's bill.

As Stanford law professor Michael McConnell pointed out in these pages yesterday, "The Slaughter solution attempts to allow the House to pass the Senate bill, plus a bill amending it, with a single vote. The senators would then vote only on the amendatory bill. But this means that no single bill will have passed both houses in the same form." If Congress can now decide that the House can vote for one bill and the Senate can vote for another, and the final result can be some arbitrary hybrid, then we have abandoned one of Madison's core checks and balances.

Yes, self-executing rules have been used in the past, but as the Congressional Research Service put it in a 2006 paper, "Originally, this type of rule was used to expedite House action in disposing of Senate amendments to House-passed bills." They've also been used for amendments such as to a 1998 bill that "would have permitted the CIA to offer employees an early-out retirement program"—but never before to elide a vote on the entire fundamental legislation.

We have entered a political wonderland, where the rules are whatever Democrats say they are. Mrs. Pelosi and the White House are resorting to these abuses because their bill is so unpopular that a majority even of their own party doesn't want to vote for it. Fence-sitting Members are being threatened with primary challengers, a withdrawal of union support and of course ostracism. Michigan's Bart Stupak is being pounded nightly by MSNBC for the high crime of refusing to vote for a bill that he believes will subsidize insurance for abortions.

Democrats are, literally, consuming their own majority for the sake of imposing new taxes, regulations and entitlements that the public has roundly rejected but that they believe will be the crowning achievement of the welfare state. They are also leaving behind a procedural bloody trail that will fuel public fury and make such a vast change of law seem illegitimate to millions of Americans.

The concoction has become so toxic that even Mrs. Pelosi isn't bothering to defend the merits anymore, saying instead last week that "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it." Or rather, "deeming" to have passed it.


Landmark Legal Foundation readies constitutional suit if Obamacare passes with Slaughter Solution

Landmark Legal Foundation president and Talk Radio powerhouse Mark Levin promised today that his foundation will file suit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare if it is approved in the House using the Slaughter Solution.

“Landmark has already prepared a lawsuit that will be filed in federal court the moment the House acts. Such a brazen violation of the core functions of Congress simply cannot be ignored. Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution is clear respecting the manner in which a bill becomes law. Members are required to vote on this bill, not claim they did when they didn’t. The Speaker of the House and her lieutenants are temporary custodians of congressional authority. They are not empowered to do permanent violence to our Constitution," Levin said.

Even if Landmark never does another good thing for the Republic, what it has been doing for more than a decade to expose the facts about the partisan political partnership between the National Education Association and the Democratic Party makes it an invaluable asset. You can check that out here.

Landmark also has done superb work in exposing how federal bureaucrats at the EPA have funneled billions of tax dollars to radical environmental groups that lobby on behalf of more regulatory power, bigger budgets and expanded staffing for ... EPA. Check that out here.

Levin may be best known for his New York Times best-seller, "Liberty and Tyranny: A conservative manifesto." I knew something remarkable was bubbling "out there" among the American people last year when Levin's book zoomed to the top of the best-seller's list and people lined up for blocks in places like Fairfax County, Va., to buy signed copies of the book and to meet him.


Into the twilight zone

Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Sunday, maybe to vote by not voting. The president has canceled his trip to Asia and the atmosphere in Washington grows surreal and surrealer. The speaker yearns to be a suicide bomber, blowing up her party's November prospects, or at least the leader of the Democratic squadron of kamikaze pilots.

No one can quite remember when a party in power has been so determined to self-destruct, with the speaker as provocateur, egging everyone on. Rep. Mike Honda, a Californian of Japanese descent, objects to some of the metaphors applied to Mzz Pelosi's mission of death by obsession, but to neutral observers - assuming any are left - her execution of the president's obsession looks like the Bataan death march, or at least a ride to the gallows in a Toyota.

Everything the Democrats are doing is turning to mud, or maybe even the smelly stuff wives accuse husbands of tracking into the house. Barack Obama even chose this week to pick an unnecessary fight with Israel, our only true friend in the Middle East. When Joe Biden quickly wore out his welcome in Jerusalem, he was brought back to Washington to employ his considerable Irish charm to entertain the Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, who dropped in for a St. Patrick's Day visit to the White House. Nobody could mess up such a jovial occasion, even with beer dyed green for the occasion.

Good old Joe, ever the bumbling uncle we've come to love (so far the president hasn't consigned him to the attic where crazy aunts and uncles usually live), nevertheless pronounced obsequies on the prime minister's ailing mother: "God rest her soul." Good old Joe quickly learned that the elderly Mrs. Cowen's soul is still among us. Never mind. He rewrote his benediction to "God bless her soul," and recalled the Irish proverb that "a silent mouth is sweet to hear." To the relief of all he turned the podium over to the president's teleprompter, and no further harm was done. No need for the media's Gaffe Patrol even to fire up the engines on their ancient Jennies.

But what other explanation for Mr. Obama's damn-the-torpedoes strategy could there be other than a suicide wish? The only outcome worse for him than losing the health care vote would be winning the health care vote. The debacle in Massachusetts has taught him nothing, but it has surely taught the public a lot. Gallup now puts the president's approval rating at 46 percent, the lowest yet, and his disapproval at 47 percent. These are dreadful numbers for any president, and particularly for a messiah who arrived at the White House little more than a year ago with approval ratings in the high 70s.

The debacle in Massachusetts will be small stuff if Mzz Pelosi proceeds with the aptly named "Slaughter solution," the bright idea of Rep. Louise M. Slaughter of New York, to dispense with actually voting for the Senate bill and declaring that the House "deems" the Senate measure enacted. This would avoid a voice vote and guilty congressmen could go home to tell credulous constituents that they should deem them as having voted against the monstrosity that almost nobody wants. Such a solution is so nutty that only Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid would have imagined using it. But if they succeed Congress will have opened up vast new avenues of chicanery, deceit and dishonesty. A husband caught staying out all night can tell his angry wife that she should "deem" him to have slept on the sofa discarded in the garage; a schoolboy who wouldn't dare claim the dog ate his homework can now tell a teacher that she should "deem" the homework done.

Mr. Obama, who long ago perfected the verbal sleight of hand that has served him well until now, got particularly flustered and visibly irritated when he sat down for an interview with Fox News and learned for the first time how uncomfortable a real interview can be. The more interviewer Bret Baier pressed the more the president wiggled and the more the interviewer persisted. Soon it descended into presidential argle-bargle. The president doesn't have an opinion on "deeming" because "I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are." He's not concerned about "the Louisiana Purchase" or the "Cornhusker Kickback" - special deals for Louisiana and Nebraska to buy Senate votes - because special deals "also affect Hawaii, which just went through an earthquake." It did?

But maybe it was a slip of the tongue and he meant Haiti. But surely he doesn't think Haiti is one of the 57 states. We can't be sure.


Hiding the true cost of Obamacare

President Obama keeps saying America needs the Democrats' health care bill to reduce costs. In reality, the government takeover of health care will raise costs and cause a large number of people to lose their health insurance.

"Well, if [the health care bill] doesn't pass, I'm more concerned about what it does to families out there who right now are getting crushed by rising health care costs and small businesses who were having to make a decision, 'Do I hire or do I fix health care?' " Mr. Obama claimed to Fox News on Wednesday.

Saying his bill will reduce costs doesn't make it true. Take the legislation's huge $500 billion cuts in Medicare. The government already reimburses hospitals and doctors less than their costs. Further cuts mean even more cost shifting to privately insured patients to cover deeper Medicare losses. Private insurance won't cover all of these exorbitant losses, which will force many doctors and hospitals out of business.

This week, the New England Journal of Medicine released a survey of doctors showing that 46.3 percent of "primary care physicians (family medicine and internal medicine) feel that the passing of health reform will either force them out of medicine or make them want to leave medicine." Not only will doctors leave medicine, but "27 percent [of physicians] would recommend medicine as a career but not if health reform passes." The survey is merely suggestive, but if the real reduction in the number of doctors is even 5 percent or 10 percent, medical costs will rise significantly. A lower supply of doctors amid rising demand for care means higher medical prices.

Another example is the ban on insurance companies charging different premiums based on pre-existing health conditions. Imagine what would happen if motorists could buy auto insurance after an accident and were allowed to drop it once a car was fixed. People would wait until they were in an accident to buy insurance, and insurance premiums would skyrocket. The same will happen if insurance companies can't charge higher premiums for sick people.

Even the few purported cost-reducing measures in the Senate bill are being gutted by the president's proposal. The reconciliation bill delays a tax on high-quality insurance, dubbed Cadillac plans. The idea was if the cost of insurance was raised, fewer people would want such extensive medical coverage and thus would not seek medical care as often. Reduced demand therefore would reduce the price of medical care. But after striking a deal with unions, Mr. Obama decided to delay the tax for eight years, until he's out of office.

The Democrats' plan will destroy American health care. Obamacare will dramatically raise the cost of medical care, forcing many Americans to drop their insurance. Responsible members of Congress have to vote this down.


The unbelievable NHS again

Bungling foreign nurse can KEEP his job... despite barely speaking English and 'worrying' lack of competence

An Indian nurse who could barely understand English and refused to learn the language was told yesterday he could return to his hospital and carry on working. The decision by the Nursing and Midwifery Council came despite despite the watchdog commenting on his ‘worrying’ lack of competence.

Biju John, 38, had insisted he was able to understand instructions and wrote to the council stating: ‘I never be confused at all.’ But staff felt they were ‘carrying’ him and did not feel safe leaving patients in his care, an NMC hearing was told.

Mr John also had a limited knowledge of basic nursing skills and did nothing when a patient was struggling to breathe, it was claimed. The NMC heard Mr John should have started basic airway management as the man gasped for breath after coming round from an operation. But instead he had to be helped by a colleague who rushed over when she heard the man’s wheezing from the other side of the anaesthetic unit at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

On another occasion Mr John almost caused a patient to go into shock when he wore latex gloves to treat him despite being told he was allergic to the material. The hospital then devised a set of objectives for the nurse, including meeting the required standard of English so he could effectively communicate with staff and colleagues. But he failed to reach the targets and was kept on supervised practice.

A further incident on October 20, 2004 led to Mr John being suspended and a disciplinary meeting was scheduled for January 20, 2005, but he quit seven days before. He was later reported to his regulating body. Mr John, from Cambridge, was found guilty of seven charges relating to his lack of competency when he worked at the hospital between July 2003 and December 2004. These include failing to complete basic skills required of a nurse, not demonstrating his English was sufficient to communicate with colleagues effectively – which gave rise to the incident with the latex gloves – and failing to take appropriate action when a patient’s oxygen levels dropped. He was cleared of mistaking the Surgical Assessment Unit for the Surgical Acute Care Unit.

NMC chairman David Kyle said his lack of competence was ‘worrying’ but ‘not irremediable’. He added: ‘Although the registrant was a caring nurse, he lacked confidence, was reluctant to act on his own initiative and could not be trusted to work unsupervised. ‘Other nurses felt they were carrying him. ‘Anaesthetists were nervous about leaving their patients in his care and adopted a practice of returning to check on their patients because they were concerned about them.

‘The panel has heard evidence of a worrying lack of competence demonstrated over a considerable period of time and that lack of competence, in some basic areas of practice for any registered nurse, particularly in communication, is still present.’

But the panel ruled Mr John could return to work subject to conditions. Mr John must tell the NMC where he is working, remain supervised, complete a personal development plan and an English language test he complies with the conditions he will be allowed to return to normal practice after 18 months.


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