December 24, 2009

It's Christmas Eve, and the view over at the Capital seems a little like the view one gazes upon at this time of year around a shopping mall. The United States Senate is like a bunch of last minute shoppers looking for presents to give to their "special interests" for Christmas.  They delivered, of course.

This morning, Senate Democrats passed a landmark health care bill in a climactic Christmas Eve vote that could define President Barack Obama's legacy and usher in near-universal medical coverage for the first time in the country's history. The vote was 60-39 and was, of course, along party lines. All 58 Democrats, and the two Independents (Socialist Bernie Sanders, VT & Joe Liebermann, CT) voted in favor of the massive government overhaul of healthcare.

Over at the Corner, Robert Costa quotes Rep. Bart Stupak who -- to his credit -- is refusing to sell out his pro-life principles in a barter form of legalized bribery, a la Ben Nelson.

Among other things, what caught my eye was Stupak's observation that "“This isn’t an appropriations bill where you try to get the best projects for your state.” It pointed out a truth that has been lurking in the shadows since Senator Tom Harkin minimized Nelson's (and other Democrats') sellouts, insisting that the legalized payoffs to their states is "small stuff."

There's a distinction to be made here.  Obviously, people are rightly upset about the quantity of wasteful earmark spending that routinely goes into appropriations bills -- and we can only hope that the Republicans will find a way to present some meaningful reforms of that system going into next year's elections.

But there's a world of difference between trying to get a special deal for one's state -- an earmark -- inserted into an appropriations bill, and accepting special deals in exchange for supporting sweeping new legislation that will affect every American and about one-sixth of the economy.

When senators are simply running up the cost of an appropriations bill to secure goodies for the home folks, it's hardly admirable -- but unless reforms are in place, it's to be expected.  That's what senators representing specific constituencies -- states -- do, especially when they're depending on that state to re-elect them.

In contrast, when it comes to a matter of national magnitude like this ungodly health care bill, one expects more of senators -- that they'll act like members of a national legislature, as they are, rather than as just representatives of their own particular states.  And that means they're supposed to take into account the national impact of a bill like this one, rather than simply taking a parochial (legal) bribe.

If the bill wasn't good enough for the country that it deserved a senator's support before the handout, he shouldn't be willing to support it simply in return for favors for the home-folks.

Ah! Christmas Eve! Giving gifts to special people! That's what Christmas is all about isn't it?

We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.