House Rules Committee Was Right on Health Care Defunding Amendment: RULES MATTER

Iowa Congressman Steve King definitely has a fan base among those who are opposed to the health care law. Of course, because he represents constituents in a neighboring state, many conservatives / limited government folks in Nebraska are familiar with Rep. King and appreciative of his outspoken opposition to the implementation of the health care law. This fall, we highlighted Rep. King’s remarks on KLIN’s Drive Time Lincoln regarding the urgent need to repeal the health care law, in large measure to contrast his firm stance on the subject to that of Nebraska’s First District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who we believe is “Deserving of Darts”.

We applaud Rep. King’s consistent opposition. We agree with Rep. King that the health care law is objectionable and all efforts must be made to prevent it being implemented. Unfortunately,we cannot support Rep. King’s most recent effort to do so.

When we consider the statement “all efforts must be made to prevent it from being implemented”, people of ethics and principle would presume that means all ethical and, therefore, law-abiding and rule-conforming efforts. Otherwise, how can we dare claim any moral authority?

On February 14, Rep. King went before the Committee on Rules requesting a waiver to House rules that would allow him to introduce an amendment to H.R. 1, which is the continuing resolution that will fund federal government through the end of fiscal year 2011. 1 Rep. King’s proposed amendment would have been attached to continuing resolution H.R. 1 and would have defunded the health care law totally. But his request was not as simple as it seemed at first glance.  This was no minor matter.  Rep. King was asking to be allowed to legislate within a Continuing Resolution, something long-standing House rules have disallowed. The Committee voted 8-4 against King’s proposal. (Sorry, but I can’t find a roll call vote anywhere, so I don’t know the breakdown of the vote.)

Notes about the Committee on Rules hearing videos: since Rep. King’s testimony before the Committee took about 35 minutes, that requires four YouTube videos. The original video from the Committee’s website caused problems when embedded here, so I uploaded the relevant portion from the 3+ hours worth of Committee business to GiN’s YouTube account. (Original video here. (formerly/

I’ve seen a good many comments on a good many websites denouncing the alleged “RINOs” on the Committee and heaping praise on Rep. King. Either people are confused or much worse. I fear it’s much worse; this is far from the first piece of evidence I’ve seen, either from an elected official or the public that shows a very troubling failure to learn some of the more important lessons delivered by the many forms of wake-up calls in the past couple of years.

Looming financial bankruptcy is not our biggest problem – moral bankruptcy is.

For those criticizing the Republican members of the House Rules Committee who joined with the four Committee Democrats to vote down King’s proposal, it’s important to understand that Rep. King was requesting the Committee to violate long-standing rules of procedure concerning continuing resolutions.

Beyond the essential question of right or wrong, we must consider one of the key objections raised about how the Democrats managed to pass the health care law and harken back to the many things they considered using to pass it. Very loud outrage was expressed by Republicans in Congress and across the country about rules being bent, broken, and outright disregarded and about a lot of questionable deals brokered in smoky back rooms.

Remember Gatoraid, the Second Louisiana Purchase, and of course, the Cornhusker Kickback? Those are, of course, the best remembered shady deals. Also, though, remember the righteous outcry against “deem and pass”, reconciliation, the Stupak amendment, related Hyde Amendment reference, and the Executive Order that resulted from the deal brokered? Who can forget the best summary statement about the whole mess, which came, most ironically from Speaker Pelsoi: “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it…”?

The whole string of events was so contemptible, despite the fact that I was definitely following events as they happened, I couldn’t remember specific details as to which odious maneuvers were ultimately used to pass the law…there were so many proposed…who can keep track? 2

So we have a stream of affronts to right and wrong that were employed to pass a detestable piece of legislation. Were Republican members of Congress and the rest of us decrying the tactics proposed and employed because they were, in fact, wrong, or were we just fighting against legislation we didn’t want?

To be perfectly blunt, I’m concerned about the answers I might receive if I posed that question to a stadium full of people opposed to the health care law. I really pray I’m wrong in my concern. I have become thoroughly convinced that it is these core morality, ethics, and principles questions which will decide the fate of this country. This great experiment we know as America was purposefully designed so that government would reflect the character of the people.

Unfortunately, Rep. King has unwittingly served himself up as a living, breathing example of why I have cause for concern.  Before going in front of the House Rules Committee, Rep. King wrote an opinion piece entitled “Defund ObamaCare with Democrats’ own rules“. In it, he accuses opponents of his proposal of making “an effort behind the scenes to block [his] initiative to cut off all funding to Obamacare”. He then tries to equate what he is proposing to do with the Democrats’ same tactic of using an amendment to a continuing resolution to abruptly end all U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. While I have not done extensive research on the topic of amendments to continuing resolutions, this seems like a weak argument to me. Did Rep. King really have to reach back to the early 1970s for an example? And was the Democrats’ maneuver to end the Vietnam War, a laudable goal, thereby justified?  DO THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS?

In my assessment, Rep. King’s arguments did not improve when he testified before the House Rules Committee; he spoke of maximum leverage, a great deal about his own efforts on the issue, and poetic justice regarding the numbering of the health care law and parallels to the continuing resolution he wants to use as a vehicle. Unless I missed something in reviewing Rep. King’s testimony several times over, I heard a great deal more about the importance of the issue, the available opportunity, and his own desire for what he seems to view as poetic justice than I did about principle.

Unfortunately, by undertaking this endeavor, all Rep. King accomplished was to reveal his own hypocrisy. It’s important to contrast this week’s testimony before the House Committee on Rules to his remarks at CPAC formerly/ in 2010, in the midst of the health care debate:

“…[T]this reconciliation package – the idea of running two bills through, pass the Senate bill in the House, and then the negotiated piece that is going on right now, in secret, bringing that through the Senate under reconciliation, which the Democrats called the “nuclear option” – now the wording is changed, “reconciliation” that sounds real nice and gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling, it’s the nuclear option, when they named it before. Passing that bill though and jamming this on the American people directly against your will, that’s what they want to do. That is what they are talking about doing. The President has got to say the whole package of Troikacare is off the list, and the nuclear option – the reconciliation – is also off the table.

And now Republicans need to make a concession. We need to say: our complete, holistic approach to this is a pretty big, complicated piece of legislation, however good the components are. Let’s also take that off the table, because we know what happens: if you have two ideas out there – and you got to put them together in order to get the votes to get them to pass – it probably says that those ideas are not good enough to stand on their own. I want stand-alone legislation. And I want stand-alone legislation that the American people can see clearly is negotiated in the transparency of the light of day.”

Committee member, North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx, best articulated what was wrong with Rep. King’s proposal and laid out future opportunities for accomplishing his goal that would be consistent with the rules. She told Rep. King that his argument that the Continuing Resolution provided the best vehicle and, therefore, the best leverage was essentially incorrect because it was likely to be rejected by the Senate. Rep. Foxx was very clear in stating her own consistent opposition to the health care law, calling it “an abomination”.  She then respectfully suggested to Rep. King that what he was requesting laid the Committee open to the very same accusations from their “colleagues on the other side of the aisle” that Republicans had been making against Democrats during the last four years.

We really do have the government we deserve.

If we want our government to be different, then the “same old same old” isn’t going to cut it. When the health care debate was raging, Redstate’s Erick Erickson argued, “The GOP Did Deem and Pass! The GOP Did Deem and Pass! Big Deal“. In the same article he contended the GOP’s use of such tactics was “legitimate” albeit “a bit dodgy”. Once we’ve ventured into the territory of “a bit dodgy”, we’ve gone down the wrong road, period.

This sort of shape-shifting really needs to come to an end and it needs to come from within. Let’s not defend the indefensible any more. It’s not only self-destructive, frankly, it’s stupid. If we abide by principle, the law, and the rules and expect people who say they are on “our side” to do the same, we will sharpen our arguments, be more convincing, and ultimately make better decisions.

Rep. Foxx was correct, and the other seven committee members who voted to defeat Rep. King’s proposal handled this matter appropriately. We propose a toast to Rep. Foxx for articulating the matter well and to her fellow committee members who voted “nay”.

After all, as stated in Matthew 16:

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

  1. Recall that there was no budget passed last year and that government was funded via continuing resolution. This lack of a budget was just one source of nasty wrangling during the lame duck session right before Christmas.
  2. It turns out the reconciliation process, in part was used to pass the health care law.

About Stubborn_Facts
Shelli Dawdy is first and foremost the mother of three children whom she has taught at home via the classical method since removing her children from school in 2001. During her early years as a homeschool mother, she worked part-time as a freelance writer. Born and raised in the Iowa, Shelli and her husband moved to the state of South Dakota in 1997, attracted to its more limited government and friendly tax environment. In 2006, Shelli and her family relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska, when her husband’s employer offered a new position. She took a break from work and politics for a time, recognizing the need to focus solely on her childrens’ schooling with two now of high school age. Distressed by many things she was witnessing on the national political scene and disillusioned about the Republican Party, she decided to start writing again, this time online. Motivated to get involved with others at the grassroots level, she networked with activists on the social media tool, Twitter. She was involved in organizing the first tea party rallies inspired by Rick Santelli’s “rant” on CNBC in February 2009. Recognizing that activism should generate on the local level, she founded Grassroots in Nebraska in March of 2009. The group’s mission is a return to Constitutional, limited government, according to its original meaning. While the group has held several tea party rallies, it’s focus is to take effective action. Among its many projects, GiN successfully coordinated testimony for the hearing of the Nebraska Sovereignty Resolution, networked with other groups to ensure a large show of public support at the hearing, and coordinated follow up support to ensure its passage in April 2010. While working to build up GiN throughout 2009, she was asked to work as writer and producer of the documentary film, A New America, which lays out how Progressivism is responsible for how America has moved away from its Constitutional roots. You can see more of her work on Grassroots in Nebraska (GiN) and StubbornFacts