Democrats gorging on absolute power

Nolan Finley: 'Americans are paying consequences of 2008 election' --Detroit News

Last Updated: December 27. 2009 1:00AM
Nolan Finley
Washington Democrats gorge on absolute power

The wisest quote of 2009 came from President Barack Obama, who cut off belligerent Republicans with the reminder: "Elections have consequences."

They surely do. And Americans are paying the consequences of the 2008 election.

The most tangible fallout of the electorate installing single-party rule in Washington is that policy-making has become an ideological exercise, rather than a pragmatic one.

Republicans still represent the views of roughly half of the America people -- on health care, it's more like 60 percent -- and yet the minority party has had no moderating effect on the health care reform packages moving swiftly to passage.


It's a bill written by Democrats and passed by Democrats, with all of the give-and-take taking place between Democrats. The horse-trading is between the middle and the left, instead of between the right and the left.

So instead of a bill that falls close to the middle, Congress will produce one that is well left of center.

The old saw, "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," applies perfectly to the process we're witnessing in Washington.

Moderate Democrats rose to express concerns about the size and scope of the bill, and held some sway. But because the negotiating was intra-party, it was too easy for the Democratic leadership to win over nettlesome holdouts with payoffs.

In the House, freshmen Democrats elected from conservative districts balked at voting for the most liberal bill to move in more than 40 years. They were bought off with promises of plum committee assignments or bullied into line by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with threats of burial in committee catacombs.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from conservative Louisiana, held out, citing the enormous costs. Ironically, she delivered her vote after getting a promise of $300 million for her pork-laden state.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., took up the torch lit by Michigan's Bart Stupak in the House and insisted that the Senate bill ban abortions from public funding. He didn't get his abortion amendment.

But he did win a promise from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to exempt Nebraska from the cost of the mandated Medicaid expansion.

Forty-nine other states will have to eat those costs, along with Nebraska's share. In Michigan, it could total $500 million the state doesn't have.

Send some love to Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who has joined a handful of his colleagues from other states to challenge the constitutionality of the curious deal.

Reid says this is how legislating works. It is when there's no check on power. Some of the stuff we've seen over the past couple of months would qualify as criminal coercion, vote buying and bribery if it were the private sector writing the checks.

But as Obama pointed out, elections have consequences. So at least for the next year, this Democratic Congress will be able to do whatever it pleases.

Nolan Finley is editorial page editor of The News. Reach him at or (313) 222-2064. Watch him at 8:30 p.m. Fridays on "Am I Right?" on Detroit Public TV. ... lute-power