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Nelson Caves; McConnell Strategy Fails

It was never about abortion.  For Sen. Ben Nelson, a devout appropriator, it was all about the benjamins.  In exchange for a “compromise” that forces federal taxpayers to fund abortion, the supposedly pro-life senator from Nebraska will receive a permanent earmark to pay for all future Medicaid increases in his state.  In short, taxpayers across America are now on the hook for abortions in New York and Medicaid cost overruns in Nebraska.  Somewhere Sen. Landrieu is cursing herself for being such a cheap, early date.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has continued his war of words against the bill.  Unfortunately for the vast majority of Americans who overwhelmingly oppose the government-run health care plan and the future generations who will have to pay for it, actions speak louder than words, and in that department Sen. McConnell has come up woefully short yet again.

Recall that from the outset, Sen. McConnell and his merry band of lieutenants settled on a “messaging” strategy with regard to the health care bill.  Under this strategy, Sen. McConnell used feckless amendments and nothing else to demonstrate that the bill was bad, as if voters across the country hadn’t already demanded that he kill the bill.  While Sen. McConnell fiddled, Reid happily chipped away at dissent within his own ranks and adopted amendment after amendment after amendment that bought Reid extra time and improved the bill in the eyes of his holdouts.

Today is the culmination of Sen. McConnell’s strategy.  And before anyone is tempted to absolve him of any blame, recall the following hagiographic article that was placed and circulated by Sen. McConnell’s press staff nearly two weeks ago: Skillful McConnell leads GOP opposition to health bill.

If McConnell’s history of having filibustered hundreds of measures over the years and the GOP’s voting pattern in the 111th Congress are any indications of what to expect during the health care debate, Kentucky’s senior senator will use every weapon in his arsenal to draw out the process as long as possible.

If only.  To date, the only parliamentary tactics the minority leader has used are those that cannot affect the outcome.  Take, for example, today’s forced reading of Reid’s newest package of amendments to the health care legislation.  If in theory it took 10 years to read every word of the recently introduced amendment, it would do nothing to stop the health care bill because Reid has already “started the clock” on a series of cloture motions.  These motions will ripen and take precedence over all pending business, including the forced reading of the Reid amendment.  Sen. McConnell’s “tactic” is form over substance, and nothing more than a desperate attempt to get credit for doing something at the last minute to prevent passage of the bill.

I have zero doubt that in the coming days, the minority leader will say that he did all he could.  That it was a moral victory to hold all Republicans (if a few don’t bail once the outcome is certain).  Coaches should not be praised as brilliant tacticians just because their players didn’t kick the ball into their own goal.  Such talk is the talk of losers.  It is akin to claiming a moral victory for beating the spread, but not beating the opponent.  Americans do not send their representatives to Washington to beat the spread.  They send them to Washington to preserve their freedom and liberty, both of which will be significantly limited upon passage of the current legislation.

I hesitate to single out the minority leader, especially given his work in the past to require continued funding of our troops overseas, but a time for reckoning has come.  Under his watch, the number of Senate Republicans has dwindled from 55 to 40.  The Senate GOP campaign arm has taken to endorsing liberals like Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter over proven conservatives like Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey who have demonstrated an ability to win elections in tough states.  And today, it appears as though Reid and his colleagues have finally figured out how to take complete control of our economy and our relationships with our doctors.

It is time for Republican lawmakers in Washington and Republican voters all over America to ask themselves the following question:  when it comes to legislative leadership, is this the best we can do?

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