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This Isn’t Bipartisanship, Mr. President

Obama's claim falls flat when looking at Senate committee's health care debate

President Obama today hailed passage of a Democrat-sponsored bill in the Senate HELP Committee as a positive development in his quest to impose government-run health care on America. He even had the gall to suggest it was a bipartisan bill — despite the fact not a single Republican voted for it.

It’s a plan that was debated for more than 50 hours and that, by the way, includes 160 Republican amendments — a hopeful sign of bipartisan support for the final product, if people are serious about bipartisanship.

Obama’s claim about the 160 mostly technical amendments is easily discredited. Amendments that fixed missing commas and misspelled words do not adequately reflect Republican ideas. But because Obama is so hell-bent on producing a bill before his own arbitrary August deadline, the White House has resorted to stretching the truth and manipulating the facts.

Obama conveniently forgot to mention that today’s 13-10 vote didn’t include a single Republican supporter. But in this White House, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is literally redefining the meaning of “bipartisanship” to suit Obama’s goal. Last time I checked the Merriam-Webster Dictionary or even Wikipedia, bipartisan meant something that reflected agreement from both political parities. Apparently for Emanuel, it’s something entirely different.

Emanuel, making a theoretical case for a party-line vote, offered a definition of bipartisanship based not on roll-call votes but on whether Democrats have accepted Republican ideas during the process of negotiations.

He said Democrats already have passed that test, pointing to Republican amendments that the Democratic-controlled Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has adopted.

“That’s a test of bipartisanship — whether you took ideas from both parties,” Emanuel said. “At the end of the day, the test isn’t whether they voted for it,” he said, referring to Republicans. “The test is whether the final product represented some of their ideas. And I think it will.”

Anyone who objectively looks at the debate in the Senate HELP Committee is unlikely to side with Obama and Emanuel despite their best attempts to alter the definition. Here are the facts about your “bipartisan” bill, Mr. President:

  • 13 days of markup.
  • 53 total roll call votes.
  • Of the 53 roll call votes, 45 were on Republican amendments.
  • 2 of the 45 roll call votes on Republican amendments were successful: 1) allowing biologic drugs derived from living cells, and 2) mandating members of Congress and congressional staff enroll in the government-run plan.
  • Total amendments filed: 788
  • Of those, 67 were Democrat amendments and 721 were Republican amendments.
  • Total amendments agreed to: 197
  • Of those, 36 were Democrat amendments and 161 were Republican amendments.
  • Of the 161 Republican amendments, 132 were technical.
  • Of the 36 Democrat amendments, 9 were technical.
  • Total amendments failed: 51
  • Of those, 2 were Democrat amendments and 49 were Republican amendments.

Why so many amendments from the Republicans? They never saw the nearly 700-page bill before it was introduced. And at the end of the day, most of the 160 amendments were technical — hardly something Obama can chalk up as bipartisanship.

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