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Senate changes 'rules' to protect 'death panels'
Posted By Bob Unruh On 12/22/2009 @ 10:41 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Sen. Jim DeMint
Majority Democrats in the U.S. Senate pushing for President Obama’s vision of a government takeover of health care have inserted in the fine print of the 2,000-plus page legislation a provision that it would take a supermajority of 67 votes in the Senate for future legislative bodies to even consider amendments to its provisions for “death panels.”
The revelation comes from the RedState.com blog, which analyzed the provisions and cited a challenge to the plan from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
After being told by Democrats that the provision changing a standing Senate rule didn’t actually change the rule but was just a change in the procedure of the rule, DeMint was frustrated:
DeMint: “And so the language you see in this bill that specifically refers to a change in a rule is not a rule change, it’s a procedure change?”
Presiding officer: “That is correct.”
DeMint: “Then I guess our rules mean nothing, do they, if they can redefine them.”
RedState’s blogger wrote, “If ever the people of the United States rise up and fight over passage of Obamacare, Harry Reid must be remembered as the man who sacrificed the dignity of his office for a few pieces of silver. The rules of fair play that have kept the basic integrity of the Republic alive have died.”
Specifically, the provision in the legislation forbids considering amendments or changes to the regulations that would be imposed on Americans by the bill’s Medical Advisory Boards, panels set up to make decisions about provisions for medical care.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at one point famously called them “death panels” because among the decisions they could make would be to withhold life-saving treatments from patients.
The provision comes in Section 3403 of Reid’s “manager’s amendment” to the health care takeover plan that is facing yet another vote in the Senate this week. The bill that would mandate abortion funding nationwide.
The bill states, “It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.”
That subsection addresses rules and regulations that doctors would be ordered to follow by the “Independent Medicare Advisory Boards a/k/a the Death Panels,” RedState reported.
The section also orders, “Notwithstanding rule XV of the Standing Rules of the Senate, a committee amendment described in subparagraph (a) may include matter not within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Finance if that matter is relevant to a proposal contained in the bill submitted under subsection (c)(3).”
“In short, it sets up a rule to ignore another Senate rule,” RedState’s analysis by Erick Erickson said.
DeMint jumped into action, questioning whether the current vote should require a two-thirds supermajority because it changes rules.
“I know that there have been amendments to bills that we required two-thirds because they include rule changes,” he said.
Democrats, however, said the rule change wasn’t really a “rule change.”
DeMint argued his point.
“As the chair has confirmed, rule 22, paragraph 2, of the standing rules of the Senate, the necessary affirmative vote shall be two-thirds of the senators present and voting. Let me go to the bill before us, because buried deep within the over 2,000 pages of this bill, we find a rather substantial change to the standing rules of the Senate… Clearly a rule change.
“This is not legislation. It’s not law. This is a rule change. It’s a pretty big deal. We will be passing a new law and at the same time creating a Senate rule that makes it out of order to amend or even repeal the law. I’m not even sure that it’s constitutional,” he continued.
According to the transcript, the “rule change,” however, was determined by majority Democrats to be a “procedural” change instead.
“We have included rules changes in this legislation yet we’re ignoring a rule that requires a two-thirds cloture vote to pass it. I believe that it’s unconstitutional. It subverts the princples that … we’ve operated under and it’s very obvious to everyone that it does change a rule,” DeMint continued. “It’s clear that our rules mean nothing if we can redefine the words that we use in them.”
On the blog’s forum, one participant said, “Power may shift back to the right in 2010 and 2012. But Fedzilla and its appetite for power grows none-the-less. It is not by accident.”
Added another, “Aren’t they saying that the words mean whatever they say they mean?”
One even asked for an exemption to the “no profanity” rule on the blog.
“We’re being steamrolled by this Congress. The worst part about this story is that the average voter will pay no attention to any story about Senate rules and procedures and the media won’t cover it because, well, they’re the media.”
DeMint, in an earlier commentary, raised even more fundamental questions about the health care socialization plans.
“There’s not a word in the Constitution about the government deciding what medical tests private health insurers should pay for. Nothing about the government deciding how much executives on Wall Street should earn, or what kind of light bulbs and cars we should buy. … There’s nothing about these or many other things in the Constitution because they have nothing to do with the proper role of a federal government in a free society,” he said.
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