The Senate used to be known as The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body. Under the careful design of the Constitution, the House of Representatives, where every member must stand for reelection every two years, is supposed to reflect the current passions and will of the voting populace. In the Senate, on the other hand, only one-third of the body is up for election in any two-year cycle. The Senate, therefore, is supposed to be the contemplative body, largely immune from immediate popular sentiment, that will take a more long-term perspective on legislation. (Of course, in the initial design of the Constitution, the Senate was not elected by the populace at all, but that is another story.)
To the extent that anyone clings to the notion that the Senate remains the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, the current health care debate seems destined to drive a stake through that perception, once and for all. In the most recent disturbing episode, a complicated provision was added to the bill that could only benefit Louisiana; it evidently was drafted specifically to attract the vote of wavering Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The price tag for the provision is estimated to be $300 million, and the question for us hapless voters is how many of these goodies and freebies have been crammed into a Frankenstein monster of a bill that is hundreds of pages long and incapable of being read and fully understood by anyone other than the handful of staffers who crafted the relevant language. That incident aptly demonstrates how far the Senate has strayed from the Framers’ intentions.
Senate floor debate on the health care “reform” bill is to begin next week, and no one knows whether it will pass or not, or whether it will be amended to include other special deals to attract the votes of other reluctant Senators. Politics has always had its unseemly side, but there is something particularly appalling about our current processes, where Senators seem willing to peddle their votes on enormously important legislation in exchange for provisions that serve only narrow parochial interests. Given the consensus view that the “stimulus” legislation was a pork-barrel monstrosity that demonstrably failed to satisfy its essential goal of immediate jobs creation, why in the world would any rational person think that Congress can fashion a reasonable, objective, carefully considered set of health care reforms?