Rep. Pete Hoekstra tells Newsmax that, if it weren't for the tea party movement, President Obama and the Democrats would likely have already passed their “terrible” healthcare reform plan.
The Michigan Republican also warns that. if the Democrats circumvent the filibuster process and ram the plan through Congress, it will spark a tremendous outpouring of “anger and frustration” from the American people.
And Hoekstra says he has introduced legislation to enable tea party activists and others to recall members of the U.S. House and Senate.
Editor's Note: See the Newsmax.TV interview with Rep. Pete Hoekstra below
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Hoekstra was asked whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will get the votes they need to pass the healthcare reform plan.
“I think there’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen with this bill,” replied Hoekstra, who was elected in 1992 and is leaving the House to run for governor in Michigan this year.
“It’s amazing. We don’t know what’s going to be in the bill. This is a bill that is fundamentally going to change one-sixth of the economy. It’s an economic policy but it’s also a social policy. This bill will fundamentally change the way that the federal government views abortion.
“This bill, if it becomes law, will put the federal government firmly on the side of providing funding for abortion as a medically necessary procedure. It is a huge shift in public policy.
“I don’t think they’ve got the votes right now. I think the more they play with policy and procedures and process, the more unlikely it becomes that this bill becomes law.”
Hoekstra said tea party activists are “a huge part” of the healthcare reform debate.
“The whole healthcare process is fueling the tea parties because they see Washington as being arrogant and out of step with where they want to go,” he says.
“Whether it’s about what’s going on with healthcare or uncontrolled spending, the tea party is definitely having an influence on public policy today. It will also have a major impact on the elections in November.
“I think if the tea party movement had not existed, it’s very possible that we would have had healthcare passed already, and the president would be trumpeting the fact that he had passed national healthcare. I think the tea party movement has been instrumental in derailing that effort. I just hope they continue to be active, involved and successful over the coming days and weeks.”
Democratic leaders plan to employ the parliamentary maneuver known as reconciliation — Congress agrees on general objectives and uses reconciliation to plug in specific numbers later. Reconciliation requires a simple majority – 51 Senate votes – rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Speaker Pelosi also is seeking to employ another maneuver, called "deem and pass" — the House would simply "deem" that it had passed the Senate legislation without members ever voting on it.
Asked if that would pass constitutional muster, Hoekstra responds: “I think if someone challenged that process, the courts would probably avoid being involved in that type of decision, and say you guys work that out in Congress, we’re not going to get involved in the internal workings of the Congress.”
The deem and pass maneuver “says we can vote for healthcare but you can go home and say you didn’t vote for it. It is a trick. I don’t think the American people are going to be fooled by it at all,” Hoekstra says. “It’s a terrible bill.”
Pelosi’s tactics are “the worst example of leadership that you can imagine,” according to Hoekstra.
“Real leadership is leaders recognizing that they serve the people that they lead. This is an example of leadership where the speaker is saying, ‘I’m the leader and it’s your job to follow me. I’m in charge here I don’t care what the American people say. I don’t care about the rights of the minority or rights of members in Congress, I’m going to skew this process so that I get what I want.’ It’s totally wrong.”
Democratic leaders are engaged in a great deal of arm-twisting and deal-making in an effort to get enough votes for healthcare reform passage, Hoekstra says. But he adds: “We’ll never know what the deals are. They’ll start appearing in two three four months and we’ll never know what relationship there is between an appropriations bill that is four months down the pike versus the agreement they made today.”
But if the bill does pass, “I think you’ll see legal challenges from the states, legal challenges from American citizens,” the congressman tells Newsmax.
“I think you are going to see a level of anger and frustration by the American people that we have not seen in 20 years. I think people are going to be outraged with the tactics and the policy that this administration and this Congress are using to pass this healthcare bill.
“Remember the president said we’re going to make this transparent, this whole debate, so the American people can see how good of a bill and how good of a policy this is. And the end result it is probably the least transparent piece of legislation that we have seen in years.”
Hoekstra observes that if the Republicans regain Congress in the November elections, they could reverse healthcare and other Democratic-sponsored legislation, although he acknowledges that such action would be difficult.
But he points out that the GOP could use some of the same tactics Democrats are now using in their efforts to push healthcare reform through Congress.
“The Democrats are going to have to remember that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If they use these tactics today, when they are not in charge the other party may use some of these same tactics in the future to reverse some of the damaging legislation that they’ve passed.
“The Democrats are playing fast and loose with policy," Hoekstra said. "They are playing fast and loose with process. I think it’s damaging to both.”
Tea party activists in New Jersey are collecting signatures in an effort to place on the November ballot a bill to recall Sen. Robert Menendez, who has supported healthcare reform and voted in favor of increased government spending.
New Jersey is one of 18 states that allow voters to recall statewide elected officials. However, there is no right to recall congressmen or senators under the U.S. Constitution.
“There’s a real question as to whether that will pass constitutional muster,” Hoekstra says.
“I’ve actually introduced legislation that would enshrine that ability in the citizenry of America, that they can have the opportunity to recall their representatives and recall their Senators when they believe these individuals are working outside of the will of their constituents.
“So a lot of people are going to watch the case in New Jersey to see if it actually does move forward and whether the courts approve of that process.
“If the courts strike it down, I’ve got the legislation introduced and ready to move that will enable the tea party folks and other citizens to begin the process of recalling their elected representatives. A number of states have this opportunity. I think we should have it at the federal level.”
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