WASHINGTON – Last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann called health care legislative provisions a “deceitful cover-up” and a “legislative fraud” and demanded that President Obama and senior Democrats in Congress apologize to the American people.
On Thursday, she posted a YouTube video making her case (above). And then she repeated her comments Friday.
Then, on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Bachmann continued her theme, telling host David Gregory “that secretly, unbeknownst to members of Congress, over $105 billion was hidden in the ObamaCare legislation to fund the implementation of ObamaCare. This is something that wasn’t known.”
I didn’t understand Bachmann’s logic when she first made the claims, and I don’t get it today. Allow me to explain why.
First: All of this was written in the bill. It was a 2,000-page behemoth, sure, but no one (Bachmann included) is contesting that it’s all in there. And second: House members had nearly three full months to read the final version of the bill before they voted on it.
When I asked Bachmann spokesman Doug Sachtleben about this on Friday, he said there’s no question this was written in the bill. It is, he said, a question of emphasis in debate.
“Clearly the language was there, but at the same time it was not made evident to members,” he said. “This information is really just now coming to the surface the way that it should.”
Bachmann said on “Meet the Press” that the information was made known in a Congressional Research Service study, and when I asked for a copy of that study, her office pointed me to an article from former Oklahoma Rep. Ernest Istook, now at the conservative Heritage Foundation, which contains a link to the study.
Although Bachmann told Gregory that the CRS study came out in February, it’s in fact dated Oct. 14. That’s a fairly minor discrepancy though, if you follow Sachtleben’s logic, because CRS studies very rarely get any emphasis unless someone pounces on it, and the Istook article highlighting it, which seems to have sparked the recent emphasis, was from February and is based on a study he did for Heritage dated January 27.
Give her the benefit of the doubt on that, right? Maybe, but CRS simply pulled out examples from the bill’s text, and again, no one’s disputing that it’s all in there. And Democrats say it was highlighted well before that.
“CBO had all of this in their estimates and it was all paid for,” said one senior Democratic aide. “CBO estimates included its cost and despite it, CBO said [the] bill will still reduce the deficit by 230 billion over the next 10 years.”
“It is just unbelievable.”
It’s important to note here that nothing has been added to the health reform law since it passed.
The only modification so far was the House and Senate voting on separate provisions to repeal a tax reporting requirement, but those will have to be merged later and the two chambers are way apart on the details (because the Democratic-held Senate’s plan to recover the $44 billion lost by the change is to not have a plan and instead let the White House figure it out and the Republican led House prefers to institute a whacking-great tax increase).
But I digress. The key point here: Nothing that Congress authorized in the health reform law has been changed yet, so we’re just talking about language in the original bill.
Back to Bachmann on “Meet the Press,” this time about the time members had to read the thing:
“I think that President Obama needs to give back that $105 billion that they already appropriated. They have tied the hands of Congress for the next eight years, David. They already appropriated this money. Members of Congress didn’t even know this money was in the bill because we couldn’t read the bill before it was passed, because it wasn’t given to us but hours before we had to vote for it. That’s why Speaker Pelosi famously said, we have to pass the bill to know what’s in it. Members of Congress weren’t even given the courtesy of time to read the bill. This $105 billion has to be given back before we can start any other discussions.”
One could make the argument that there wasn’t the time to read the bill before the House originally passed it, maybe.
Though it had been exhaustively debated throughout the preceding 10 months, technically the debate on the House bill began on Oct. 7, 2009, and concluded with the House passing it the next day.
But that wasn’t the end of the story, and that’s where I lose Bachmann on her claim that no one had time to read the thing.
The Senate made numerous changes to the bill and, on Christmas Eve, cleared the amended bill on a 60-40 vote. The idea was that the House and Senate would agree to a compromise bill and then re-vote, and the new bill would go through. But that’s not what happened. Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat that had been held by Democrat Ted Kennedy, and all of the sudden the Dems’ 60-vote bloc in the Senate was broken.
So on March 21, almost three full months after the Senate passed its health care bill, the House voted on that. It passed 219-212, and the president signed it shortly thereafter.
Far from not having “the courtesy of time to read the bill,” the House had nearly three months to read the final version.
And after reporting on this for two days now, I guess I still don’t understand Bachmann’s logic on this one.