Let A Million Amendments Bloom
Given that the proposed use of reconciliation is an illegitimate use of the procedure, the Senate GOP ought to be preparing to counter the jam down with a flood of amendments, each one of which requires an up or down vote. The prospect of thousand, or tens of thousands, or perhaps even a million amendments and the resulting spectacle of a Senate paralyzed by endless roll call counts should worry Democrats much more than Republicans as the American public doesn’t want Obamacare, and a last ditch stand to stop it via a blizzard of amendments will put the spotlight on the bill and its many flaws. It will also show a Republican leadership willing to fight to stop this radical rewrite of the rules of American medicine,
But where to get thousands and thousands of draft amendments? This is the joy of the internet. If the NRSC is on its toes, it will already be setting up a site where visitors can draft and submit their own amendments for use in the process. (The NRSC website is already accepting input on the topic.) Some of the draft amendments will be inspired and informed as experts weigh in. Some will be absurd. Some no doubt will be vulgar or obscene as trolls invade.
But the vast bulk of them would come from ordinary Americans with ideas on how to reform health care. The NRSC staff can suggest drafting guidelines consistent with the Senate’s rules, but then turn the input switch on and let voters have their part in the amendment process. What’s a hundred thousand up-or-down votes between friends? Speaker Pelosi demanded “a simple majority vote” after all, so she should get an avalanche of simple majority votes.
While individual senators of course must offer every specific amendment, they would do well to attribute any particular draft to its original author. Thus would Tea Party activists, state legislators, candidates for Congress, high school civics classes, and each one of my law students have a chance to impact the legislative process. (I might assign the drafting of two amendments each to my Con Law students –a memorable participation in an exercise in saving separation of powers and the traditional role of the Senate.)
With technology and the ability to employ new media to spread the word, the Senate GOP can summon up as many amendments as it needs to block reconciliation. A radical solution? Not as radical as ignoring the vote in Massachusetts, bypassing the established conference committee process, and abusing the obscure reconciliation to jam down a massive and unpopular rewrite of every rule of American healthcare.
Stopping Obamacare is a priority among a large majority of Americans. Senate Republicans would be well advised to let that vast group of concerned citizens help them make the stand against the president and his radical agenda.