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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Civil Disobedience For Republicans

I know, I know, paying attention to anything Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) says is a bit lazy, since she offers up irrational outrages on a near daily basis. But her remarks suggesting that Americans don’t have to comply with health care legislation if it’s enacted via procedures she doesn’t like really do blaze some new trails for the American Right–or at least trails not pursued since the early 1960s, when segregationists urged noncompliance with Supreme Court decisions and civil rights laws.
Here’s Bachmann flirting with jail-time in defense of the great American principle of unregulated private health insurance, or whatever it is she’s standing for:

If they pass the bill legitimately, then yes, we have to follow the law — until we repeal it. But if they pass it illegitimately, then the bill is illegitimate, and we don’t have to lay down for this. It’s not difficult to figure out. So if for some reason they’re able to get their votes this week and pass this 2,700-page Senate bill — if they get it, trillions of dollars is what it’s gonna cost, when we didn’t vote on it, we need to tell them a message: That if they get away with this, they will be able to get away with anything — with anything. And you can’t say you voted on a bill when you didn’t, because it’s fraud. But we are not helpless here. We are not helpless, there are things that we can do.

What Bachmann is thundering about here specifically are reports that the House may vote on a reconciliation bill to “fix” the Senate bill, and then by a Rules Committee provision “deem” the Senate bill itself as having passed the House via efforts to amend it. Turns out the “deem and pass” strategy was used by Republicans during the Bush administration to enact a debt limit increase–never a popular vote–so there is, ahem, some bipartisan precedent for the procedure. And for all the talk about its sneakiness, it should be remembered that it is being considered not because of some substantive concerns about a “fixed” Senate bill, but because House members fear the Senate will just celebrate House passage of their bill and not bother to get around to the “fix.” In other words, it’s all procedural mumbo jumbo that’s unrelated to real health care reform. Any House member voting for the “fix” is, in fact, going to be held responsible by Republicans for supporting “ObamaCare,” so conservatives are being more than a little disingenous in claiming that “deem and pass” is some sort of devilish trick to avoid accountability.
In any event, the courts are where such matters should be thrashed out, not the streets. And by suggesting that her own view of “deem and pass” as representing “tyranny” should trump the law of the land, Bachmann is taking a fateful step towards the revolutionary posture that her Tea Party allies have been hinting at all along.
I’m reminded of an incident back in Georgia some time ago when Congress had enacted a tax bill that imposed a state-by-state volume limitation on the use of tax-exempt financing for private development projects. I was part of a state government team that designed Georgia’s system for implementing this law, and after a public briefing on the new rules in one locale, a local development official replied: “We appreciate y’all coming down here to explain all this, but we think we’ll just use the old system.” We decided not to humiliate the guy by pointing out that the IRS wouldn’t exactly let him “use the old system,” but instead informed him of that privately.
I hope someone informs Michele Bachmann and her listeners that she doesn’t get to pick and choose which laws are “valid.” And if she’s willing to go to the hoosegow to resist ObamaCare, there are quite a few other Americans who think the supremacy of law is a rather important principle who will be happy to accomodate her.

One comment on “Civil Disobedience For Republicans

  1. John Clinton on

    It may be all well and true that Republicans have used this strategy in the past, but this makes the strategy no less boneheaded. At a time when the constant refrain is a criticism of process–even though it appears that this criticism has not entirely connected with the public–to take this strategy is more than a bit absurd. I can see the court challenges from Ms. Balks-at-everything already, and the headlines in the MSM taking the hypocritical Republican arguments about an “illegitimate process” both as honest and serious, considering their demonstrated inability to understand even at a basic level the use of reconciliation. I understand that House Democrats don’t trust the Senate, but my goodness, do they not just see the attacks coming? Oh Democrats, we do know how to shoot ourselves in the foot even when we do something right.


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