Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health care debate leads to talk of impeachment

The health care debate has been a spectacle to watch. Democrat members of Congress that are opposed to the legislation are being threatened by the President and by leaders of the Senate and the House. Some of it is subtle, like President Obama telling members of his party that he has no plans to campaign for them unless they vote for the health care bill. These days, in light of the incredible low he is experiencing in the polls, that is probably good news for Democrats. Other threats are less subtle, including some being warned if they do not vote for the bill, they are going to face well funded primary challenges. The arm twisting that members are experiencing is unprecedented and the tactics being used by Democrat leaders is being described by some as unconstitutional.

"Unconstitutional" and "impeachment" are fighting words for members of Congress and are dangerous when you are talking about the Speaker of the House. That is the type of language Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is using in light of the actions going on in the Congress.

One of the primary responsibilities of the media, known as the "fourth estate," is to hold those in power accountable. Congresswoman Bachmann argues that the media has dropped the ball by ignoring the Constitutional violations that are taking place in DC today.

Bachmann had the media in its crosshairs recently when she was in on Sean Hannity's program, stating, "Where is the mainstream media in all of this not telling this story? This is a compelling story - that the Speaker of the House would even consider having us pass a bill that no one votes on?" When she says that, the thought is a little shocking. The Speaker of the House is using an illegal procedure to pass a bill that will move one-sixth of the economy to government control and the media is more interested about whether the bill will become law than in the tactics being used to make it happen.

The procedures being used by Speaker Pelosi are so horrible, Bachmann says, that they alone serve as grounds for impeachment. Of particular concern is the "Slaughter Rule" or "deem and pass." The Wall Street Journal describes the situation well: "We're not sure American schools teach civics any more, but once upon a time they taught that under the U.S. Constitution a bill had to pass both the House and Senate to become law. Until this week, that is, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving to merely 'deem' that the House has passed the Senate health-care bill and then send it to President Obama to sign anyway... Under the 'reconciliation' process.. the House is supposed to approve the Senate's Christmas Eve bill and then use 'sidecar' amendments to fix the things it doesn't like. Those amendments would then go to the Senate under rules that would let Democrats pass them while avoiding the ordinary 60-vote threshold for passing major legislation. This alone is an abuse of traditional Senate process." So abusive are the tactics, in fact, that Bachmann is talking impeachment.

Bachmann goes on to say that members of Congress should "laugh her out of the House and there should be people that are calling for impeachment off of something like this," Bachmann continued. "That's how bad this is. I mean, trust me - (former Speaker of the House) Dennis Hastert could have never gotten away with this. President Bush never could have gotten away with it."

At the very least, Bachmann hopes that voters will receive an important civics lesson. She argues that this is the type of thing that happens when one party dominates the entire political process. In the case of the Democrats, it became a temptation to abuse Constitutional power at a level we have never seen in the history of our country.

How serious is the impeachment threat? Right now it is only one member of Congress that is part of a legislative body dominated with members with a rather casual view of the idea of rule of law. But elections are in November and the political landscape could change rather quickly. It seems very obvious that voters will be watching what unfolds closely.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is also host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650). Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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