Diary

96 Hours and Counting, Execution in Three Phases

Rush Limbaugh says that the way in which the House is managing the Health Care vote has turned into a suicide pact. That is not necessarily a good thing, in that those who do put that electoral pistol to their heads may no longer be hesitant to issue still more aye-votes on other key Obama issues later this year; cap and trade, immigration, etc. (This is the same stuff some suicide bombers are made of.) We expect that by the November elections, all of those other initiatives will have had at least one run around the track.

I see three milestones: 96 hours (0700 Sunday morning), 15 days (when Congress recesses for Easter), and 32 days (when Congress returns to work). Already there is talk of staying in Washington until the business is done. I doubt this will not happen as most members have locked-in plans. I’m told it’s the one time every year the Speaker can meet with the only priest in America who will give her absolution, Fr Guido Panzini who always flies in to bless the first batch of marijuana brownies in the Mission District.

The press has picked up the drumbeat of the Slaughter Rule, although they still try to couch it as bizarre rather than sinister. (The GOP hasn’t helped, pulling out blue pencils rather than outrage in their public statements about these maneuvers.) The giant rallies in Washington this week were barely tied to health care, but rather taxes. Limbaugh gave out phone numbers for only the second time in his show’s history…thus sending all those millions who try to call him every day over to get a busy signal from the Congressional switchboard instead. I assume email folders are also full.

To the maximum extent these efforts matter, the message has been received loud and clear in Washington. We need to keep it up. A cacophony of noise. But they really won’t push the issue an inch more.

These next 96 hours, through Saturday, are crucial, for the original 18 March deadline (tomorrow) and Obama’s postponement for his vacation to balmy Indonesia had been moved forward three days to accommodate this vote. This is a self-imposed deadline, made very public, that both the White House (through Gibbs) and the still-unrepentant Pelosi have set.

If there is a vote and it fails, it’s over. But don’t bet on Nancy calling for one unless she is sure. Very sure. If there is no vote, then we win Round One, as Obama and Pelosi both take a hit, while reloading for Round Two, starting Monday.

If you can actually double down on a previous double down, look for it…as every member would rather go home on Good Friday (Apr 2) with this bill in the can (either can) than have to face the wrath of their constituents those two weeks over an unfinished bill. Most would end up having to cancel those tickets to Charlotte Amalie anyway, so never forget how these seemingly minor inconveniences…a grouchy wife who has to sit around Albuquerque all week, and one really groused daughter with $1000 worth of new spring beach duds hanging in the closet.

If Congress comes back to work on April 19 without a bill, we may win this until a new Congress is sworn in next year. So these first two fights we must win.

We’re probably talking less than 10 members here. Which ten I can’t say. But while their phone banks are full, their emails shut down, there’s probably little more of that kind of aggravation that can push them.

These are all herd animals. They have no problem committing crimes as long as everyone goes along, as we’ve seen over the years with their general theft of the treasury. It ain’t really stealing. In the sense that guilt arises from mens rea (criminal intent) they probably don’t have the requisite amount. Appeals, or even threats, probably won’t dent their armor of self-defined innocence.

But they did swear an oath to uphold and defend, and the Slaughter Rule, while being floated now as a time-tested old rule even the GOP pulls out from time to time, is still directly opposed to the US Constitution. Using the threat of an almost guaranteed Court reversal, even more massive public revolt, and even more strident public retribution beyond a mere down-vote in November, and a likelihood that the bill will still never see the light of day once it goes back over to the Senate, (in other words, all this will have been for naught) I think enough can be culled from the herd.

They will not do this out of fealty to that tired old document, mind you, but self interest. That getaway retreat in the Bahamas. That sweet retirement package which vests almost immediately in Congress. Their name being stripped off the Central Avenue viaduct. The long check out lines at Food Lion. Burger King. That brand new Ford Fiesta.

These are the medicines that will cure the ailing congressional spinal condition. All we need are effective delivery systems.

It’s time to call out the big guns. 95 hours and counting.