[This article was posted today at Catholic Advocate.]
Four Things the President and Congress Can Do Right Away On Health Care Reform
By Matt Smith
Congress returns to work today to begin the second session of the 111th Congress. Here are four things the president and Congress need to do this week on health care reform.
President Obama said this is his signature piece of domestic legislation, and he was “going to roll up” his sleeves to finish the job even before Congress returned. Now is the time when presidential leadership means taking responsibility. It is no longer enough to let Congress be the foil – President Obama is going to have to get his hands dirty in the impending health care negotiations. I am sure he was in regular contact while in Hawaii (no president is ever out of the office), but since the president and members of Congress both returned to Washington within 24 hours of each other, I am sure there is time for consideration of the following:
1) The president should immediately and publicly support the Stupak-Pitts language at the beginning of any negotiations. Support life, take the issue off the table, and move on. White House staff signaled a preference for the way the Senate version dealt with abortion. But if the president truly meant what he said in his remarks at Notre Dame last May, that we should try to reduce the number of women seeking abortions and find common ground, then he should immediately stop supporting the largest single expansion of tax-payer funded abortion ever. Under the Senate plan, abortions in America will increase by fifteen percent each day. Abortion is included in the ridiculously labeled “preventative care” category in the legislation. Prenatal care that leads to the successful birth of a child from conception to delivery is preventative care; doing research to reduce the risk of birth defects and to identify health risks to children after they are born is preventative care; abortion is NOT preventative care.
2) Let the cameras roll. President Obama and the rest of the Democrat party promised transparency during the 2008 campaign and an end to “back room deals.” With Senator Nelson selling his vote in December, it is hard for the Democrat party to retain any credibility on transparency. So if you are hosting any meetings with members of Congress, staff is participating in any meetings on Capitol Hill or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, or members of Congress host any meetings amongst themselves – let the cameras roll. I’m not talking about the traditional cabinet or Roosevelt Room remarks AFTER the meeting. Show it all – be accountable for the negotiations. C-SPAN will happily cover it.
3) Appoint a Conference Committee and have it accurately represent the coalition that passed the legislation. News reports out late Monday, January 4 indicate there are no plans to appoint a “formal” conference committee thus limiting negotiations. So the question for Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, “Why are you stacking the deck? Why are you ignoring 60 members of your own party and a majority of Americans who have serious problems with tax-payer funded abortion language in this legislation? Why are you not wanting to bring together some of the better minds on Capitol Hill to craft a compromise?”
Democrats need to stop trying to take the high road if they never have any intention of setting foot on the path. Part of compromise is listening to the other side even when you disagree with them. It is not negotiations when they are one-sided and within your own ranks cutting deals to get the “magic numbers”. This is not the bi-partisanship you promised – walking away because the other side disagrees with you or because you disagree with them.
4) Start Over! Don’t be afraid to start over. True failure is not being able to admit when you have made the mistake. Yes, you have invested a lot of political capital in this effort. Many believe the health care system in our country can be improved in certain areas, primarily customer service and the business side of the industry. Even though he never lived to see an age of medical science and technology that supports life as we possess today, Pope John XXIII laid the foundation for the belief that health care is part of basic human rights. His writings, along with those of John Paul II, have guided Church support for health care reform over the past five decades. However, this legislation does not accomplish any of these items if it lacks moral aptitude and hurts working Americans through tax increases.
When a majority of Americans now disapprove of Democrat health care efforts joined by the governors of the two largest states in the union that are already in financial straits – it is time to start over. The alternative will be the American people choosing to start over with new leadership in Washington.
Matt Smith is a consultant in Washington D.C. and former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison.