In the statement from soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi; no mention is made of the primary reason the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives last night. Speaker Pelosi’s statement alludes to two major pieces of legislation. One enacted in the waning days of the Bush Administration and one from the first few weeks of the current Administration:
In the days leading up to the 2008 Presidential election, a massive crisis of confidence in the credit markets occurred. A number of financial experts had a number of opinions as to the actions necessary to prevent the United States, and in turn the world from economic collapse. To prevent a complete collapse of the credit markets, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson worked feverishly with member of Congress to craft the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP). The program was touted as being necessary to prevent complete economic collapse in the United States. Given the dire predictions of complete economic collapse, members of both parties in Congress were convinced of the necessity of the TARP and it was passed by votes of 74 to 25 in the Senate and 263 to 171 in the House of Representatives. After all was said and done, the TARP was authorized to provide up to $700 billion in protection against toxic assets held by financial institutions. The provisions of the TARP included recoupment of outlays to financial institutions, meaning that financial institutions receiving payments from the United States Treasury were required to pay back the money that they borrowed with interest. As of October 5, 2010, the total cost to taxpayers is $30 billion.
In the first month of the Obama Administration, the task to fight off rising unemployment began. When first proposed, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)–better known as the ‘stimulus’–was billed as a reinvestment into the infrastructure of the United States that was necessary to prevent unemployment from climbing above 8 percent. Although funds were designated for infrastructure improvements throughout the United States; of the total stimulus dollars spent, infrastructure improvements received $105 billion. The unfortunate caveat of these monies was that projects that used the funds needed to be ‘shovel-ready’. For all of the economic benefits of infrastructure improvements, very few projects that result in large economic benefit are ever ‘shovel-ready’. Also included with the stimulus were tax breaks and incentives totaling $288 billion. The total of these two portions of the stimulus were $393 billion, leaving the American public to guess what the remaining nearly $400 billion would be spent on. For all of the marketing that came along with the passage of the stimulus, the unemployment rate as retrieved from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics stands at 9.6 percent. The stimulus was to cost $767 billion, but the tally of final cost is $862 billion–nearly $100 billion in unforeseen expenditures. A total of 14.8 million American are currently listed as being unemployed. When the numbers are tallied, what this means is that the money is gone and $58,000 per person later, those Americans are still unemployed.
Conspicuous by its absence in Ms. Pelosi’s statement after last night’s election results is ultimately what led to the massive political upheaval that occurred:
In March of 2009, President Obama along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi began crafting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as health care reform. By the Congressional summer recess of 2009, several versions of health care reform legislation had been crafted by Congress. Representatives returned to their home districts and held numerous town hall meetings to explain the legislation and its benefits to their constituents. The reaction they received was completely unexpected. In town hall meeting after town hall meeting, representatives were spoken to, complained to, and in some instances shouted down. It should have been obvious to members of Congress supportive of the health care reform bills that a rework of the legislation packages was necessary.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), members of Congress returned from their summer recess and in concert with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, fired up the most prolific, public, political sausage-making factory in recent memory. After combining the various bills for health care reform from various House of Representatives committees, Nancy Pelosi cajoled and convinced a majority of her colleagues to pass the combined bill on to the Senate. Once the bill reached the Senate, various provisions were added or taken away, and ‘incentives’ added.
Senator Reid was able to convince nearly all of the Democratic members of the Senate to vote for cloture on the health care reform bill, a step necessary for the bill to be voted on for passage in the Senate. A vote on cloture in the Senate is the point during the Senatorial process where the minority is permitted to filibuster against a given piece of legislation to prevent a vote on its passage. A vote of 60-40 is required to invoke cloture and bring debate on a bill to an end. In order to achieve the number of votes necessary to invoke cloture, Harry Reid in essence paid off Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska with a provision now known as the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’. The ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ fully funded Nebraska’s portion of increases in Medicaid spending that were required by the reform act. After much heated dialogue from around the country, the provision was eventually removed from the legislation, but cloture had already been invoked, the Senate bill passed, and the bill was set on Nancy Pelosi’s desk for final passage.
With the surprise election of Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts by way of special election in January of 2010, Nancy Pelosi could not risk making changes to the Senate bill before the House of Representatives voted on the bill. Had changes been made by the House to the Senate bill, a new cloture vote would be required in the Senate and with a filibuster threat now very much alive and well, Nancy Pelosi could not take the risk of making changes lest she lose the reform bill in its entirety. To pass the bill, Pelosi would need to do a great deal of maneuvering; and maneuver she did. She was able to get assurances of votes from a large number of her majority Democratic Congressmen, but the pro-life Democrats in the House needed to be placated. With Obama coming into the game in relief, he promised Bart Stupak that no federal funds would be used for abortions; not by way of binding legislation, but by way of an easily revoked and unenforceable Executive Order.
After a year’s worth of backroom talks, arguments, political (or maybe literal) arm-twisting, and daily scolding of the American public, the health care reform bill was passed and at last, the will of the American People thwarted.
But the will of the American people cannot be thwarted and your voice will not go unheard.
Though Nancy Pelosi seems to have forgotten; when you recall the election of 2010, you need look no further than the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter of our discontent, better known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for the real reason behind the results.