Washington is making the rest of America dizzy. The latest “breakthrough” agreement on healthcare will be the eighth major version this year (each exceeding 1,000 pages) — far more than most Americans can keep up with.
The public deserves ample time to review and scrutinize each version before Congress votes.
So far, nobody’s seen the new eighth edition. It’s not even in writing yet!
The new version is a major makeover, with its enlargements of Medicare and Medicaid and its massive new grant to the White House of control over insurance. But as The New York Times noted, “[Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid refused to provide details.”
Nor is any cost estimate available, although healthcare providers already foresee a disaster. It becomes “the mother of all public options,” giving the federal government total control over Americans’ medical care.
This requires slowing the headlong rush to pass a bill before Christmas. It’s an artificial deadline anyway. After all, Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., wants the Senate to pause for the weekend while he goes to New Orleans to raise campaign money. Don’t the rest of us deserve a break, too — before Congress revamps one-sixth of the American economy with this bill?
Untold millions of man-hours have been spent reviewing the earlier versions. Three different committee versions in the House, plus the version compiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that eventually squeaked to House passage. Two different committee versions in the Senate, plus the version compiled by Reid. That’s seven prior bills, each in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 pages.
As Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., infamously said, “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?” But reading the bill is a necessity when the stakes are this high.
Nothing this massive should be rushed through because both intended and unintended consequences are enormous. As The Washington Post editorialized, the latest version is dangerous 11th-hour “legislative sausage” that was “made on the fly.”
Each new version must be scrubbed by the public and subjected to financial analysis by multiple independent groups. (The Heritage Foundation has collected this material at its special Web site.)
Multiple promises have been made (sometimes honored and sometimes not) that the final version would be posted online at least 72 hours before a vote. That’s a bare minimum, because even that time is insufficient for such massive legislation.
Every major new version should mean that the countdown clock must start over. Nobody can study what Congress keeps secret.
Ernest Istook served 14 years as a U.S. Congressman from Oklahoma, and is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
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