As of yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was still considering using a controversial reconciliation procedure to pass the Senate’s health care bill in the House of Representatives. “Reconciliation” permits the House to pass a version of the Senate bill (theoretically, a Senate bill adjusted to meet House concerns, as if two different versions of the bill are being “reconciled”). The desired result is that the bill would be deemed to have passed both houses in spite of the fact that a new bill would now be defeated by filibuster in the Senate. But this is a mere political tactic. It isn't reconciliation in any larger sense.
As might be expected, Pelosi is confident she has enough votes to make sure a reconciled bill includes funding for abortion. Her tenacious insistence on the expansion of abortion suggest that, for the good of her soul, Nancy Pelosi should be excommunicated in the hope of getting her attention (at least before she dies), but that’s not my call. Speaking purely politically, I think it safe to say that Pelosi is determined to ram through a type of health care “reform” which is currently opposed by a significant majority of the American people, and to keep abortion coverage intact despite even more consistent opposition by a similar majority. There is no hint of reconciliation here.
The greatest mistake a political figure can make may well be to adopt the myth that government is rightfully in charge of everything, and that the fact of holding an office qualifies one to give the universe a makeover. Indeed, Nancy Pelosi may wonder what else people could possibly have elected her to do. For people who think this way, there is little room for humility and restraint, let alone the interests of constituents. Even Scott Brown’s capture of Ted Kennedy’s hallowed Senate seat in Massachusetts doesn’t phase people like Pelosi. No, she has her one shot at the ideological formation of a perfect world and, with or without citizen support, she intends to take it.
You can always tell those whose faith in God is purely nominal. They’re the ones who will crush popular opinion in the quest to implement their own vision of human perfection now. This is because they really do believe they have only this one chance. They have no confidence in a “next life” in which God will govern everything in perfect love. They have no other shot. This makes all ideologues desperate. It explains why ideologues are typically ruthless enough to kill those who get in the way of what they perceive right now as the Ultimate Happiness Of Humanity (UH-OH).
Of course, the way Nancy Pelosi is going, perhaps she is unlikely to get another shot in another life. If so, it makes her something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the rest of us ought to have the humility and even the limited expectations necessary to step back and work on health care in a constructive bipartisan manner which sincerely tries to juggle what most people really want and what most people think they can afford. In fact, we should commit ourselves to exactly this just as soon as we strip from the idea of health care anything intrinsically immoral. Let's try reconciliation with God first, and then with each other: Reconciliation with substance.
[Note: Shortly after posting this blog entry, I learned that Democrats are now proposing a strategy of passing smaller health care bills first, so the controversial reconciliation strategy may be dropped. Pelosi's long-term goal is still to include coverage for abortion.]
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