The Cornhusker Kickback. The Louisiana Purchase. Gator-aid. These terms have become familiar to millions of Americans who are concerned about health care legislation. They know that without these measures—essentially bribes offered to wavering Members—the bill never would have passed the Senate. Now Americans are learning new terms—reconciliation, the “Slaughter Rule,” and “pass and deem”—which are ways to game the legislative system to make it easier for Congress to pass a bill that so many Members are reluctant to support.
Americans are rightly outraged by the corrupt process that’s been used to advance a mammoth health care bill that would fundamentally alter one-sixth of our economy. Yet the process and the bribery are really sideshows in this debate. The real reason to oppose this bill is because it is a fundamentally flawed government power grab that would reduce individual liberty, stifle economic growth, and damage what’s best about the American medical system.
Too many opponents of this health care legislation are focusing on the wrong things, namely the process and the corruption. These are attributes that could be fixed. Republicans should remember their experience during the 1995 budget battle. The issue became an argument mired over whether Congressional Budget Office numbers or less aggressive Administration numbers would be used and the number of years within which the budget had to be balanced, rather than emphasizing the larger issue of the content of the budget itself. When President Clinton yielded on those procedural matters, Republicans were stymied: they hadn’t spent enough time making the principled argument against about the budget itself.
Republicans are opening themselves up to a potential rerun of this drama. Even if Democrats fail to get the votes this week, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid could reconvene and craft a similar bill, but one that is free of graft and is advanced through a transparent, regular legislative process. The bill wouldn’t be any less loathsome, but many who today focus on corruption as the central reason to oppose the bill would struggle to refocus on the principled case against it. The health care legislation’s supporters would contend that critics are merely naysayers looking for any excuse to kill health care reform. That criticism might resonate.
Indeed, the real reasons to oppose this bill have nothing to do with either process or political deals. The real reasons are principled and they are numerous. The legislation would massively expand government control over the health care system. It would create a first-ever federal mandate that individuals must purchase a product or face penalty. It would fundamentally undermine the concept of private insurance and push millions of Americans onto the government’s insurance rolls thus making them wards of the state. Government would grow, spend more money, collect more taxes, and go deeper into debt. Doctors would leave the profession, which means we would have fewer medical professionals serving more patients. Quality of care would suffer.
Sixty-three percent of those surveyed agree with the statement “the current legislation gives government too big a role in the healthcare system,” compared to just 32 percent who disagreed. More than half (53 percent) strongly agree with that statement. By a more than three-to-one margin, voters disagree with the statement “It is the responsibility of the federal government to mandate that everyone have government-approved health insurance and to be penalized if they do not” (76 percent disagree vs. 22 percent agree).
More than half of those surveyed agree that it would be an “unprecedented violation of individual rights for the federal government to mandate that everyone have government-approved health insurance.” Overwhelming, voters believe that “Americans have the right to spend their own money to have access to legal health care services, treatments, and tests” (86 percent agree vs. 11 percent disagree). A majority think that they and their loved ones would be worse off under proposed changes. They also believe the economy (54 percent) and U.S. health care system (55 percent) would suffer.
There is no fix for the real flaws in this bill. Removing corrupt provisions like the Cornhusker Kickback wouldn’t make the bill more palatable. Passing this law using regular order wouldn’t make its consequences less grave. This bill is an assault on individual liberty and limited government. That’s the reason to defeat the bill and the case opponents should bring to the American public.
Heather Higgins is the President and CEO of the Independent Women’s Voice and Carrie Lukas is a Senior Policy Scholar for the Independent Women’s Voice. Carrie L. Lukas is the vice president for policy and economics for the Independent Women’s Forum.