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Partisan Political Tactics Stifle Health Care Debate

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The process Democrats are pursuing to pass government-run health care has become as flawed as the legislation itself. And that's really saying something. From the beginning, the attempt to force through a government takeover of health care has been marked by disregard for the views of the American people. Now, Democratic leaders are disregarding standard legislative procedures and well-established precedents, as well.

President Obama has signaled his intention to push his plan through the Senate by using a procedure called "reconciliation." This fast-track method for considering legislation was designed as a budget enforcement tool to allow Congress to modify spending levels to keep them in line with the yearly budget. Accordingly, reconciliation has traditionally been used to approve adjustments to spending and tax policies that have often reduced the size of government. It has never been used to pass sweeping, controversial policy changes or create massive new government programs -- until now. As further proof of the unpopularity of their health plan, Democratic Senate leaders are resorting to this unprecedented exploitation of a parliamentary loophole because they don't have enough votes to pass their legislation under normal rules.

But unorthodox political maneuvering is hardly the worst contribution Senate Democrats have made during the Obama administration's quest to take over health care. One of the most troubling results of this lengthy process has been the weakening of a longstanding policy to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions. Under our current system of individually purchased health plans, policy holders don't have to worry that their premiums will be used to pay for procedures to which they're morally opposed. However, language in the Senate bill would not restrict taxpayer money from being used to subsidize abortions performed though taxpayer-funded community health centers and government health plans authorized by the legislation.

Government-controlled health care would open the door to any number of similarly unacceptable outcomes because it would create a system under which government bureaucrats would make decisions best left to individuals. Even the decision to purchase insurance at all would be dictated by the government under provisions that would require all citizens to buy coverage. Having your own, private insurance plan is no protection against government intrusion if the bill passes. Costly new mandates required by the Democrats' legislation would make existing policies too expensive for many employers to afford, thereby forcing millions of Americans into uncertainty and, potentially, government-run exchanges.

Faced with the threat of these crushing new costs, the nation's employers are understandably hesitant to hire new workers. The paralysis this insecurity is causing in the job market is evident with each monthly jobs report. February's unemployment statistics show another 36,000 people out of work and a total jobless rate still hovering near 10 percent.

Yet President Obama and congressional Democrats still insist on forcing their plan through Congress, regardless of damage to the economy, standard practices of the legislative process, and opposition of the American people. All of this upheaval could be avoided if the majority party would scrap their plans for massive government expansion and start over with commonsense, step-by-step reforms that lower health care costs. Until and unless they do, America's economic recovery, along with individual control over health care choices, will remain in jeopardy.

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