Unsurprisingly, President Obama recently realized early legislative success in pursuit of his massive government-heavy healthcare program.
Sen. Harry Reid pushed the initial legislation to the Senate, giving our representatives very little time to review the bill in advance of the first vote opening further debate.
In attempting to clear this initial procedural hurdle, Reid and the Obama administration could not find the support of a single Republican senator and also were having difficulty in rounding up even the necessary 60 votes, all of which would have to be Democrats, to advance the legislation.
Now, most taxpayers would hope that, in pursuit of the 60 votes, the administration and Senate Democrats would use the merits of the legislation as the basis for their swaying of members of their own party. Sadly, that simply is not the case.
Rather, bribes in the form of earmarks ended up being the carrot that lured in the final votes on a critical piece of legislation that may impact the future of our nation’s healthcare. . . and our nation’s debt.
Take, for example, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, one of the last Senate holdouts who joined other Democrats only hours before the controversial vote. What drew Landrieu to vote in support of the legislation? Was it her comfort with the cost, or perhaps her satisfaction that the concerns of her constituents had been satisfied?
Sadly, the answer lies with a seemingly minor provision added to the healthcare legislation, which takes two pages to write up a description of which states would qualify for an influx of 100 million additional dollars in federal Medicaid subsidies, using phrases such as “certain states recovering from a major disaster.”
Those two pages make it so that the only state that could qualify is Louisiana. Landrieu says the funds will total to $300 million ($100 million in disaster relief and $200 in Medicaid).
But if you thought the esteemed senator would feel the least bit ashamed of how her decision was made, think again. In her floor speech, after accusations that her vote was bought, Landrieu said: "I will correct something. It's not $100 million, it's $300 million, and I'm proud of it and will keep fighting for it."
But the waste and hidden vote purchases are not confined to Landrieu and the Democrats’ 21st-century Louisiana Purchase. A Boston Globe story in July uncovered a provision in both the Senate and House versions of the bill that would designate large sums of money (up to $1.6 billion each year in the House version) to improve the nation’s “health infrastructure.” The proposal will cover community grants for things such as bike paths, jungle gyms, sidewalks, lighting, farmers markets, etc., as a preventive health measure.
Certainly preventive healthcare is a worthy topic for discussion, but is a “reform” of our healthcare system really the appropriate place to spend billions on children’s playgrounds?
Earmarks and “pork” are not new in Washington politics. However, earmarks and pork required to get Democrats to support a Democratic-authored healthcare reform bill should tell us all we need to know: Even internally, many Democrats recognize that Americans do not support their effort to further empower the federal government and drive up the national debt all in the name of faux “reform.”
The time has come for Americans of every political persuasion to stand up and demand that our representatives seriously debate the ramifications of this healthcare legislation instead of trying to find ways to be compensated for their votes. Perhaps the clearest way to send that message is to send Landrieu packing. After all, in the actual Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson managed to purchase half the county for 20 times less than it took for Landrieu to give it all away!
Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is chairman, and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org).