Tax day is a day when all Americans are reminded about the importance of politics and think about the importance of the political future so they can adjust their budgets accordingly. Most of the time in politics we have a reasonably good idea of what’s going on: what the issues are going to be, who the favorites in the next election are, who are the main blocs, etc. Of course, there are always surprises and upsets.
Francis Cardinal George, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued a statement explaining why the Bishops are opposed to the Senate version of ObamaCare.
The Cost is too High; the Loss is too Great
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long and consistently advocated for the reform of the American health care system. Their experience in health care and in Catholic parishes has acquainted them with the anguish of mothers who are unable to afford prenatal care, of families unable to ensure quality care for their children, and of those who cannot obtain insurance because of preexisting conditions.
Throughout the discussion on health care over the last year, the bishops have advocated a bipartisan approach to solving our national health care needs. They have urged that all who are sick, injured or in need receive necessary and appropriate medical assistance, and that no one be deliberately killed through an expansion of federal funding of abortion itself or of insurance plans that cover abortion. These are the provisions of the long standing Hyde amendment, passed annually in every federal bill appropriating funds for health care; and surveys show that this legislation reflects the will of the majority of our fellow citizens. The American people and the Catholic bishops have been promised that, in any final bill, no federal funds would be used for abortion and that the legal status quo would be respected.
However, the bishops were left disappointed and puzzled to learn that the basis for any vote on health care will be the Senate bill passed on Christmas Eve. Notwithstanding the denials and explanations of its supporters, and unlike the bill approved by the House of Representatives in November, the Senate bill deliberately excludes the language of the Hyde amendment. It expands federal funding and the role of the federal government in the provision of abortion procedures. In so doing, it forces all of us to become involved in an act that profoundly violates the conscience of many, the deliberate destruction of unwanted members of the human family still waiting to be born.
What do the bishops find so deeply disturbing about the Senate bill? The points at issue can be summarized briefly. The status quo in federal abortion policy, as reflected in the Hyde Amendment, excludes abortion from all health insurance plans receiving federal subsidies. In the Senate bill, there is the provision that only one of the proposed multi-state plans will not cover elective abortions – all other plans (including other multi-state plans) can do so, and receive federal tax credits. This means that individuals or families in complex medical circumstances will likely be forced to choose and contribute to an insurance plan that funds abortions in order to meet their particular health needs.
Further, the Senate bill authorizes and appropriates billions of dollars in new funding outside the scope of the appropriations bills covered by the Hyde amendment and similar provisions. As the bill is written, the new funds it appropriates over the next five years, for Community Health Centers for example (Sec. 10503), will be available by statute for elective abortions, even though the present regulations do conform to the Hyde amendment. Regulations, however, can be changed at will, unless they are governed by statute.
Even though the health care bill seems all but dead, this video is a fine example of what happens when you sell out your conscious to political pressure.
At first glance, it would appear that Scott Brown’s unlikely victory is bad news for President Obama’s long-term political future. Senator-elect Brown explicitly ran against the current health care reform bill, favoring federalist experimentation rather than a one-size-fits-all national approach. As health care reform was the central focus of President Obama’s first year in office, and Massachusettes is one of the most liberal states in the country, Brown’s victory there is a clear repudiation of the leadership of President Obama and Congressional Democrats during the past year. Nevertheless, I think a case could be made that Scott Brown’s victory will help the President in the long run. There are three main reasons:
1) Brown’s victory was too stunning to ignore. No one would have predicted it even a month ago, and I was still skeptical yesterday that Massachusetts was going to elect a Republican senator for the first time since 1972 – and to replace Ted Kennedy, of all people. Congressional Democratic leadership and the Administration will no longer be able to convince Blue Dog Democrats they know best and that Obama will be able to leverage his popularity to preserve their seats. That card has been played – not only in Massachusetts, but also in Virginia and New Jersey – and it wasn’t a winner. This means that the Administration and the Congressional leadership will have to adjust their strategy, and pay more attention to voter sentiment. It’s probably too late at this point for this to help the Democrats much in November; they will take a well-deserved beating in this election. Nevertheless, it’s a lesson the Obama Administration will keep in mind going forward, just as the Clinton Administration pivoted after the Hillarycare debacle. President Obama will be forced to govern more like the moderate, fiscally responsible Democrat he campaigned as. And that is likely to increase his odds of re-election.
Well Massachusetts has elected a Republican US Senator for the first time in 37 years. What does this political upset of the century mean?
1. ObamaCare is dead. Not only because the Democrats now lack 60 votes to invoke cloture in the Senate, but because opposition to ObamaCare was the signature feature of Scott Brown’s campaign and the results of this race in bluest Massachusetts will send chills down the spine of too many Democrats.
2. We now have further evidence that the Democrats are looking at a political storm of the first magnitude in the Fall. If a US Senate seat in Massachusetts isn’t safe for the Democrats, it is hard to imagine what seat in Congress outside of urban centers they can take for granted in November.
3. The fundraising success of Scott Brown over the internet was astounding. A demonstration that the internet fundraising effort of the Democrats in 2008 now has a GOP counterpart.
4. Look for a wave of Democrat retirements in Congress as more Democrats decide that ending their political careers with a voluntary retirement is preferable to defeat.
5. More Blue Dog Democrats in Congress will follow the example of Congressman Parker Griffith and announce that they are switching to the Republican Party.
Go here to see the last polls on the Senate race in Massachusetts. The seat that is up has been in the hands of the Kennedy family since 1953, four years before my birth. The last time the Republicans won a Federal senate race in Massachusetts was in 1972 when I was 15 years old. Against all the odds Scott Brown has engineered the political upset of this century. In November he trailed Martha Coakley by 30 points. He has run a superb campaign and she has run an abysmal one, but the key issue has been his opposition to ObamaCare. If ObamaCare is a losing issue in Massachusetts, in what State in the Union can it be a winning issue? Brown 52; Coakley 47; Kennedy 1. That is my prediction. What is yours?
A Republican may be elected to serve out Ted Kennedy’s unexpired term? It could happen! Public Policy Polling, a Democrat leaning polling outfit shows the election a toss up between the Democrat Coakley and the Republican Brown. Scott Rasmussen, the best political pollster in the business in my opinion, shows Coakley up by two. Last week he showed her up by nine. On Monday Brown raised over a million dollars in one day in internet donations.
If Brown wins the Senate race in the Peoples’ Republic of Massachusetts, it will send a political shock wave across this country the like of which hasn’t been seen in many a year. If Ted Kennedy’s senate seat isn’t safe, what seat is safe for the Democrats? Oh, I don’t believe that I should call it Ted Kennedy’s seat per Mr. Brown.
Byron Dorgan, Democrat Senator from North Dakota, decided it was better to retire rather than to be tossed out in November. His retirement is an indication of just how grim the political environment is becoming for Democrats, especially in red states. The news of Dorgan’s exit is sending out shock waves on Capitol Hill among Democrats. Which Democrat Senator will decide next that “retirement” sounds better than “defeated”?
Update I: Politico takes a look here at the sudden wave of Democrats retiring.