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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Infamous Health Care Bill

Okay – I decided I would write about the Health Care Bill. Last week I addressed this topic, but from the vantage point of the influence that the Blue Dog Democrats have on any current legislation, and in particular, the Health Care Bill.

I guess I need to identify this bill by its actual name: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, HR 3200. I wanted to read the bill for myself so I began my search on the internet. I did find UPS ready, willing, and able to send me a copy of the bill (or five copies if I so chose!), printed and bound with black letters on a white background. Whoopee! Just what I’ve always wanted.

Not willing to accept defeat, I persevered until I found the bill in its entirety on the internet. Some of the things that I noticed right away were most interesting. For instance, there are indeed 1018 pages to this bill. However, this is not like reading a history book or a medical journal. Remember when you were in school and you had to do a report or write a term paper? You hoped the teacher would allow you to double-space and have wide margins and large print. Well, that’s how Congress prints their bills. It could not be any easier to read! There are roughly 150 words per page in this bill. By comparison, my Bible has an average of 650 words per page. The average number of words on a single page of a paperback Western (which I love to read!) is 250. Now follow me here. If it takes me around five minutes to read a page from my Bible (and I am not a fast reader), then it should take me about ¼ the time to read a page from the Health Care Bill – one minute and fifteen seconds. Multiply this by the 1018 pages of the bill and it would take roughly twenty-one hours to read through this bill. Granted, that’s a lot of reading. But that is exactly what our lawmakers are supposed to do for us! It’s their job! For a representative to complain that they can’t be expected to read the bill because it’s too long would be like me telling my congregation that I can’t be expected to spend hours preparing a sermon each week. It’s ludicrous! It’s my job!

The synopsis of HR 3200, which is printed just below the bill heading, says, “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.” Hmmmmm. That last part makes me wonder what “other purposes” means.

The following is a brief, concise description of the role of Congress in the enactment of the affairs of “we the people.” I gleaned this from the Encyclopedia Britannica. “Congressional business is processed by committees: bills are debated in committees in both houses, and reconciliation of the two resulting versions takes place in a conference committee. A presidential veto can be overridden by a two-thirds majority in each house. Congress's constitutional powers include the setting and collecting of taxes, borrowing money on credit, regulating commerce, coining money, declaring war, raising and supporting armies, and making all laws necessary for the execution of its powers. All finance-related legislation must originate in the House; powers exclusive to the Senate include approval of presidential nominations, ratification of treaties, and adjudication of impeachments.”

Did you catch this one line? “And making all laws necessary for the execution of its powers.” That, in a nutshell, is the role and responsibility of Congress. They are lawmakers – first, last and always! If a bill were 100,000 pages, it is still the job of our elected officials to read it because they are the ones making the law. I ran across a web site, called, “Let Freedom Ring.” On that site they are challenging Congressmen to sign a pledge to read the bill. As of this writing, 106 of the 535 members of Congress have pledged to read the bill. It breaks down to 98 House members and eight Senators. You may want to go to this site and see if your representatives have made this pledge. Neither of my senators has, nor has any of the representatives in my area.

When you see people gathering at the town hall meetings in their districts throughout August while Congress is on recess, listen to what the constituency is saying, because folks are genuinely upset at the cavalier manner in which this Health Care Bill and other legislation is being handled by Congress.

Here’s some friendly advice for our Congressmen: When you come up with a bill, first read it. If you then believe it is in the best interest of “we the people,” then come out and tell us why. We will listen to your reasoning. Then we will decide for ourselves and we will let you know how we want you to represent us. Why? Because you work for us! So, please, do your job!

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