Healthcare reform; a Constitutional Crisis in the making
By Robert Amoroso
Maybe I’m being an alarmist, or perhaps I’ve been reacquainting myself with history, once again. Whatever it is, I’m extremely concerned for our nation. Not in the traditional sense of one political party verses the other or one philosophy being in vogue for a while, but rather the continued blurring of the political process, and the “lowering of the bar”, of what our ideals in a democracy should be all about.
What is taking place in Washington today is frightening, not because it’s from the radical left, I would feel the same way if it were from the extreme right, if our fundamental principles and the mechanisms that governs it were under attack.
Watching this administration in action, I’m once again reminded that history has a funny way of repeating itself, and while past events may appear to have no relationship to the present…just the opposite appears to be true .
In 1972 President Richard Nixon ran for reelection, and was swept back into office by a landslide victory, with over 60% of the popular vote, and won every state, except ironically for Massachusetts.
Two years later as President, he was implicated at what seemed at the time, a petty burglary at an office complex called the “Watergate”. In November of 1973 in front of a scheduled press-conference he once again claimed his none involvement in the incident and declared, ”in all of my years in public life I have never obstructed justice...People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook." On Saturday, July 27, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved its first article of impeachment charging President Nixon with obstruction of justice.
Rather then face impeachment, President Nixon resigned in-disgrace, Vice President Gerald R. Ford succeeded him and a month later granted Nixon a full pardon for any crimes he might have committed while in office.
Fast forward to another administration, that of President Bill Clinton and another seemingly unrelated event on our journey towards a Constitutional crisis. What started out as an improper relationship between the president of the United States and a young female staffer, quickly degenerated once again, into a cover-up and obstruction of justice.
On Monday, August 17, 1998 President Clinton, went before a grand jury against the advice of his lawyers and testified to the exact nature of his relationship with the young intern, he was the first president ever to testify in a grand jury criminal investigation concerning his own actions, and while historians may disagree on the merits of the investigation, what is not in dispute is that the president of the United States, under oath lied to a federal grand jury, and once again articles of impeachment were drawn, and another crack in our democracy appeared.
And while these two events to the casual observer may have no direct relationship to what is currently taking place on capital hill, in truth we are y facing a more damaging assault on our democracy today then we ever faced before. In the cases of both Presidents Nixon and Clinton, we witnessed a progression of acceptability for their individual crimes.
In Nixon’s case the evidence of wrong doing was overwhelming and it become obvious that he would be impeached, rather then facing impeachment, he resigned, and of course was pardoned, thus avoiding criminal charges and still keeping all the trappings of an ex- president, at the tax payer’s expense.
In Clinton’s case the evidence against him, was also overwhelming, yet Clinton still enjoyed immense popularity among the people, and a robust economy and of course a much friendly congress, his allies in congress insisted that his crime of lying under oath…“did not rise to the level of impeachment”. In short lying under oath to a federal grand jury wasn’t as grievous as to the degree and the value of the lie…a convoluted reason to be sure, and of course another assault on the rule of law and our principles.
The shift in acceptability by the media and the people, to these events had widened considerably, while Nixon for the most part was viewed as a villain and a crook, Clinton’s crimes were marginalized by party line and downplayed to a large extent by the media. He was viewed more as a sympathetic character that simply got caught up in an illicit affair
One might ask again, what do these obvious crimes such as destroying evidence or lying under oath, have to do with this administration? A fair question to be sure, perhaps nothing or maybe everything, two men with immense talent yet equally flowed characters, one involved in a petty crime, the other in an illicit love affair, both trying to protect themselves by lying and then covering up their transgressions…acts of human frailty to be sure, however crimes never-the-less.
The unintended consequences to these two events were an erosion of our core principles of “right and “wrong”, and a convoluted sense of acceptance by a large segment of the population, based for the most part on biases and ideology.
However, the Constitutional violations that are currently taking place on capital hill and in the white house are more grievous and will have a far more profound effect on us as a society, then the crimes committed, by either Nixon or Clinton, in that this president’s intentions (I believe), is to test the validity of this document, our Constitution, by twisting the very tenor of its written laws and principles.
In order to achieve his legislation, he’s using bribery, intimidation, payoffs, and a parliamentary maneuver called ”Reconciliation” which was never intended to push through a massive entitlement, and while using “Reconciliation” to push through this massive entitlement may not be illegal, the bill itself, I believe is unconstitutional.
The author of “Reconciliation” Senator Robert Byrd actually spoke out against this slight of hand maneuver in a letter to the congress, in which he writes;
“I oppose using the budget reconciliation process to pass health care reform and climate change legislation. Such a proposal would violate the intent and spirit of the budget process, and do serious injury to the Constitutional role of the Senate”.
As one of the authors of the reconciliation process, I can tell you that the ironclad parliamentary procedures
it authorizes were never intended for this purpose. Reconciliation was intended to adjust revenue and spending levels in order to reduce deficits. It was not designed to cut taxes. It was not designed to create a new climate and energy regime, and certainly not to restructure the entire health care system.”
The key phrase in his letter is this “serious injury to the Constitutional role of the Senate”.
And I believe that’s what at stake…obviously, trickery, slight-of-hand, bribery and intimidation, is fast becoming the hallmark of this Chicago politician, and while I have little if any regard for this presidents policies, my overwhelming concern isn’t weather or not, this ill conceived legislation passes, (the bill itself will be challenged in the courts), but rather how it passes and what lies ahead for our country if it does.
Simply ask yourself, “If a major piece of legislation can be passed in this manner, what of future legislation”? If this president indeed any president, irregardless of party or ideology can circumvent the Constitution and the will of the people, then how long before our rights as a free people are usurped?
The danger for us as a republic and as a democracy is to once again ignore history. The pendulum will eventually swing as it always does, the other way. And we’ll eventually have another administration, another president, and another agenda. However once we establish a precedent, that trickery, slight-of-hand, bribery, intimidation and questionable parliamentary maneuvers are acceptable, then any future chief executive can bypass the congress with a minimal vote, and push through any bill without regard to the opposition or the will of the people.
Within the last 48-hours this bill as become so toxic to house Democrats that they’re actually considering another sleazy maneuver, besides ”Reconciliation” to pass this bill. It’s another parliamentary move really used, that in effect relieves Democrats of actually voting for the bill and deems the bill “passed” without a single vote.
Can you imagine that within our form of government a major piece of legislation that effects 1/6 of our economy, and directly impacts every man, woman and child, becoming law without one single vote being cast…astounding. What we’re witnessing is unprecedented in the annals of American history and if unchallenged, we’ll be presiding over the eventual demise of our democracy, as our founding fathers envisioned it.