Would the Founders have approved of the health-care reform process?
"The process that led to this bill was sleazy," Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Sunday's Meet the Press. "It was the worst of Washington." Maybe so, though I'm not sure what the best of Washington looks like. The Iraq debate, where lies and fear-mongering forced a sort of cowed bipartisanship and wrongheaded consensus? The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, with its three-hour vote and so much blackmail and arm-twisting and intimidation that the House Ethics Committee had to open an investigation and issue reprimands?
Either way, Rick Hertzberg points out that the process might have looked like the worst of Washington, but it was also pretty similar to the process that created Washington.
It occurred to me the other day that the Constitution itself was ratified in much the same way that health-care reform finally got passed.
The ratification fight was a few months shorter than the health-care fight, but it was at least as contentious. In many states approval was far from a sure thing. The ideological lines weren’t the same then as they are now—the French wouldn’t invent “left” and “right” for another couple of years—but some of the issues Federalists and Anti-Federalists tussled over still echo. Some skeptics of the new charter feared a big expansion of centralized power. Some worried that their liberties would be put in peril.
What emerged during the process was an informal but unmistakable promise by proponents to make adding a bill of rights the new national government’s first order of business. At the New York ratification convention—the one that the Federalist Papers were written to influence—Hamilton struck a deal to make ratification conditional on a recommendation that a bill of rights be appended. Even so, the thing passed by just three votes out of fifty-seven. Without a lot of such slip-slidey maneuvering the whole effort would have collapsed.
In other words, pass and patch. In other words, reconciliation.
March 29, 2010; 8:06 AM ET
Categories: Health Reform
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