How can the Senate pass by reconciliation a major, brand new piece of legislation that has been attached to the health care bill?

On March 16 Peter Wood, the president of the National Association of Scholars, sent an extraordinary comment to VFR explaining the radical implications of the federalization of higher education loans that has been attached to the health care bill. It is must reading.

Yesterday I asked Mr. Wood about remarks made by Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad:

Conrad says that according to the parliamentarian, every provision of a budget reconciliation bill must have a budget impact and cannot be “extraneous.” Then how in heck can the House add the massive federalization of education loans, completely unrelated to the health care bill, to the health care bill, and how can the Senate pass it by reconciliation?

Peter Wood replies:

Right now the argument is that the “savings” in Direct Loans provision will offset a fraction of the costs of Obama Care.

But this whole process is such a blatant abuse of Constitutional rule that it doesn’t much matter. As the President said in his interview with Fox’s Bret Baier, he doesn’t “spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or the Senate.” Clearly not.

I replied:

Yes, that’s interesting, and weird and perverted beyond belief. In order to get one revolutionary, unconstitutional bill passed into law by unconstitutional means, including bypassing an actual vote for the bill in the House, they attach to this bill a completely unrelated though also revolutionary bill, which by being attached to the first bill will also be made into law without a House vote, but which helps the first bill gain approval by directly federalizing higher education loans and so reducing the costs incurred under the current system of indirectly federally backed education loans; and this reduction of federal costs brought about by the second bill makes the illegitimately combined bill a “deficit reduction” package, which for some reason gives Democratic congressmen the cover to support the health care bill, even though the deficit reduction is being brought about by the education bill, not the health care bill, and to vote for the combined bill—whoops, sorry, not to vote for the bill, how silly of me, Congress voting a bill into law is just an irrelevant procedural detail that the American people don’t care about, but to “deem” the bill to have been passed, notwithstanding its blatantly unconstitutional nature and the ruin to the country it will cause.

Have I got that right?

Peter Wood replies:

Yup. Pretty much.

March 20

A. Zarkov writes:

Rule by decree. This is the path that Obama and the Congressional Democrats are on. However this journey started with FDR, and the infamous Wickard v. Filburn Supreme Court decision in 1942. Before Wickard, we more or less had a federal government based on enumerated powers. The framers put in the Commerce Clause because they feared the states might erect tariff barriers against one another. Little did they realize that one day this clause would be used to eviscerate the entire idea of a government with enumerated powers. After Wickard, anything, and everything became some form of commerce, because any activity could affect some aspect of commerce. Now the Democrats are playing the same game with reconciliation. Anything and everything can potentially affect the budget; therefore any legislation can be considered to have a “budgetary” aspect. There’s nothing new or novel about attaching unrelated items to a bill, but generally the Senate had to vote on the whole package, and survive a filibuster. Now with the extended meaning of “budgetary,” reconciliation can eviscerate the filibuster for anything. Then all it takes is a simple majority to pass any kind of legislation about everything. The president has shown he can intimidate Congress. Take a Congressman for a ride on Air Force One, and make him an offer he can’t refuse. This is why the health care bill is so important to Obama. It’s his pathway to rule by decree. If he can pass health care, then the mechanism is in place to go further. To go the whole hog. Obama has already told us that he’s indifferent to the constitutionality of process. Process be damned because only the result counts. He’s doing it. It’s not a dream, and I fear it might take some kind of insurrection to stop him. Health care is simply the first olive out of the bottle.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 19, 2010 02:18 PM | Send

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