Thursday, March 18, 2010

Of Oaths and Obloquy?

As we approach this weekend's vote in the U. S., some may believe this to be the denouement of the year-long struggle over "health care reform". Many will rejoice in the tying up of loose ends and the speculation laid to rest as we finally discover what's in the bill. Still others will see the vote as the final chapter in a story replete with tales of backroom deals and skullduggery, of graft and grift and corruption. Some will excuse the process as ugly, yet necessary. Many, including myself, see this as the ultimate expression of a governing class which has abrogated their elected responsibility and sworn oath in the pursuit of power.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in Speaker Pelosi's embrace of the Slaughter Solution, a self-executing rule. In reality it's a parliamentary trick to allow the House of Representatives to "deem" the Senate health care reform bill as passed without voting directly for it. Speaker Pelosi likes this solution because it allows her members "to keep some distance" between themselves and the Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker Kickback, Gator Aid, Connecticut's Dodd-Lieberman Memorial Hospital - and the Senate's support for federally funded abortion. But most of you know all this, and if President Obama is to be believed, you "don't care about the process".

Well I actually happen to care about the process and believe that many other Americans do as well. Mr. Obama has demanded a simple up or down vote on whatever form the health care reform bill will take. What Speaker Pelosi and Congresswoman Slaughter have come up with is anything but simple. For most members it's a bill that is more enigma than definiteness, requiring a bewildering leap of faith in democrats in the United States Senate, wrapped up in the tatters of somebody's copy of the United States Constitution.

Unlike President Obama, I have not taught Constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and am by no means a Constitutional scholar. Also unlike President Obama, I do not believe that the United States Constitution in his words, "reflects a fundamental flaw in this country". Nor have I taken an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution". But a common sense reading of the United States Constitution shines a glaring light on Speaker Pelosi's fundamentally flawed strategy for advancing the progressive vision of health care reform in America.

I quote below from the United States Constitution, Article 1 section 7 clause 2, with acknowledgement of the web site of the United States House of Representatives as the source of this information:

"Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives... in all such cases the votes of both houses shall be determined by yeas and nays and the names of persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively...."
There is nothing in there about what has become known popularly as "deem and pass" or the Slaughter Solution. Nothing in my unscholarly reading of the United States Constitution provides cover for this legislative sleight of hand.

Every member of the House of Representatives swears the following oath on a copy of the Holy Bible (or the Koran, if one is so disposed):
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God." I cannot see how "deem and pass" demonstrates " and allegiance...." under that oath of their office.

We find ourselves in a similar situation to that of our nation at its founding, with a future that was far from certain. Back then they chose a republic, Two centuries on, both the American legacy and her future are far less certain today. A majority of our elected leaders, in direct violation of their oaths of office, are moving relentlessly to impose a paternalistic state on the American people. Will we be the United States of America, or will we lose the legacy of Washington, Madison, Adams, Lincoln and Reagan, and become a second-world shadow of our former national self, fading into obloquy and obscurity?

It's not often in writing this blog that I will turn to scripture, but in the face of unbridled arrogance and lust for political power, a particular passage that many of us have heard from the Old testament comes to mind. In Micah 6:8, we see the exhortation, " do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly...." And we also see in Isaiah 33:15-16 that, "He who walks righteously, and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gains of oppression, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil, He will dwell on high."

That doesn't sound at all like many of the people in Washington. They may truly believe that the end justifies the means. Their clock is running, and they're about out of time. It's their vision of America or ours.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, especially when the future of the country is at stake.

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