Sunday, December 27, 2009

#188 Obamacare and the House of Lords II

... because the U.S. Senate as it exists today (continuing from last post) is virtually bankrupt as a deliberative/legislative body. And this is why I can't blame the head of our Executive branch overmuch, and that includes the area of health care. He's fighting a formidable dragon--nay, dinosaur--in the shape of that most exclusive club in America.

First of all, like the old House of Lords left over from the monarchical ancien regime, our Senate can effectively veto or amend out of existence the laws made in the House of Representatives (our "Commons"). Further, the Senate itself is hindered from changing the law or making new ones because of its own obstructionist rules of order like filibuster/cloture--rules that are contrary to the majoritarian principles of the Constitution. The vox populi is thus choked with a double garrote.

The Voice of the People just doesn't seem to penetrate the walls of the Senate chamber. For example, only a handful of our popularly-elected President's judicial and other high-level appointees have been approved by the full Senate; the rest are being tortured on the rack by the star-chamber committees. All it needs is one Republican + convoluted parliamentary tricks to delay things forever. Opposition become obstruction. You surely have noticed lately, when you step back a bit from the fray, that the debate seems to be more about numbers than about ideas.

On another front, the majority of the "Lower House"--that is, Congressmen proportionally representing and doing the voting for more than half the population--PASSED a Climate Change bill. Months ago. The Senate has effectively vetoed this bill by ignoring it. While good things proceeded apace on a global scale in Copenhagen, our parochial little Senate embarrassingly mires this important problem in a parliamentary slough.

As to Health-Care Reform, the "Commoners" are for it. By vast numbers. According to the polls, three-quarters of us would rather NOT see millions of Americans suffer and die and lose half their minds and all of their money under the current system. To help correct it, a majority of us favors some sort of government-run program as an alternative to private insurance. Where have these voices of the people been heard?--the House, of course, logically so, and thankfully. On Nov. 7, H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act was passed, restoring those missing words from Obama's speech in August (DM #186). An Exchange will be established, a marketplace of insurance plans, it reads, "including a public health option."

Will the Senate hear the voice of the majority of the electorate speaking through the majority of the House of Representatives. Or hear those other representative voices in support of the House bill like AARP, the Natl. Nurses Union, and, surprisingly, the American Medical Association? Well, the Senate dropped Public Option long ago, and just yesterday Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is threatening to call for the REPEAL of the watered-down, Big-Med-friendly bill the Senate just passed! Arrogant and incorrigible is that most powerful and exclusive good-ol'-boys-club in the land.

No, if you want kill a bill, send to the Senate. Or have it originate there, and watch it die. The Senate works very well if nothing comes to a vote. That's because this modern-day House of Lords favors the status quo ante, no matter who's in the majority--ultimately no better than a minority for either party against the tyranny of obstructive parliamentary rules. Nobody's in charge. Takes sixty Senators to stop a filibuster according to the cloture rule; takes a preposterously arbitrary sixty-seven to CHANGE any rule, including the cloture rule! Totally UN-democratic, and, I would argue, against the spirit of the Constitution. Yet it takes but a handful of small-state Senate Republicans, representing about 5% of the American people, to bring the entire Legislative branch of our government to a halt.

Only solution: a populist hero in the House of Commons, umm ... Representatives, must introduce a bill--again I nominate brave little Dennis Kucinich--to abolish the United States Senate.

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