Hugh Hewitt: Liberals want to suspend self-government for Obamacare

March 8, 2010 05:24

By: Hugh Hewitt
Examiner Columnist
March 8, 2010

President Obama is demanding a final vote on Obamacare before the members of the House and Senate return home for the Easter recess, which begins March 29.

Whatever your views on the merits of the variety of health care reform proposals that collectively have been debated over the course of the past 15 months, you should be offended and repulsed by this schedule.

Why? Because there is no bill to look at and debate; no text to read; no budget estimate to examine for its assumptions and calculations.

This is a massive proposed law, thousands of pages long, with extraordinarily dense language. The president has promised even more new provisions touching on such important subjects as tort reform and Medicare taxes, provisions that have never seen the light of day or been debated in any committee.

His whole pitch is “Trust me,” and the American people clearly do not, but still he pushes for a rapid conclusion to the debate.

This is not how free people govern themselves, and there can be no rhetorical cover for this attempted diktat. There is no urgency for a program the benefits of which do not begin to arrive in great measure for many years. There is no conceivable argument for voting in essence “sight unseen” except that the bill cannot withstand scrutiny, so scrutiny must be avoided.

Time and time again we have seen how the legislative process tosses up unseen and unread provisions that shock and appall. Most recently in the law to reauthorize the Patriot Act, there appeared out of nowhere a provision that would have criminalized various interrogation procedures. The “McDermott Amendment” was stopped, but not for lack of trying.

There will be no end to the fine print in Obamacare 4.0. The outrages of the “Cornhusker Kickback” and the “Louisiana Purchase” will have plenty of cousins in the newest proposals pushed by the president. With enough time, they can be discovered, and public opinion can be brought to bear to force them out.

Once into law, however, the worst provisions of Obamacare, passed in darkness and with undue speed, will require enormous effort to repeal and supermajorities if the president wields his veto to protect the special interests that benefit from the law’s nooks and crannies.

Look at the fiasco that is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which has cost tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars. The Congress cannot move itself to remedy even its most absurd overreaches. Once on the books, we are stuck with Obamacare with all of its unseen deals.

Nor will we be able to see until it is too late what hasn’t happened. Is the tort reform being promised by the president in any way real? Do the numbers add up? Will the Medicare cuts be as deeply destructive as advertised, or will they be suspended and thus the deficits in the out years far greater than advertised?

Liberals who are pushing for a final vote are pushing for a suspension of self-government, for an astonishing and sickening descent into “who cares, just do it” extremism that departs from the long legacy of the American constitutional project.

Every legislator who votes to proceed in this fashion is participating in a shameful humbling of the role of the Congress. They will deserve to be thrown out regardless of the merits of Obamacare because they could not possibly have known what those merits are.

Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at

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