Email #291: “the indignity of it all”?

Some think that the majority party in Congress should be required to involve the minority party before taking any major legislative action. One Congressman expressed particular outrage when a bill was rushed to a vote without hearings or minority input simply because the party in charge was facing a deadline:

“Now, the indignity of it all is that here in the closing days of the Congress, when this bill has been brought forward in this urgent manner, we are not even given the opportunity, as the minority is always given, to offer a motion to recommit, no opportunity to amend this bill in any way, shape or form, as though this was perfectly drawn and perfectly brought here, and that anybody who was not in the small room where the final version of this, totally without the inspection of the American people, totally without the opportunity for anybody to participate, brought here in some perfect manner; and now, of course, we are going to pass it without even the opportunity for the minority to offer changes to the bill.”

That was in 2010. The bill was the DREAM Act, which became the blueprint for President Obama’s DACA program. The majority party was the Democrats, and the outraged Republican Congressman was you.

Now the GOP-controlled Congress is facing its own deadline. After September 30th, the so-called “reconciliation” process can no longer be used to avoid the Senate requirement that legislation have 60 votes to pass. Since the GOP only controls 52 seats, that means compromise will be the only path forward. But instead of embracing bipartisanship, the GOP is attempting to hurry through an ACA repeal bill.

Given the “indignity” you felt in 2010, I would expect you to oppose the Senate bill out of principle. The Graham-Cassidy repeal has been brought forward in a far more urgent manner than the DREAM Act was seven years ago, and, since not even the CBO has had a chance to calculate its repercussions, it is being pushed through totally without the inspection of the American people and totally without the opportunity for anybody but a handful of Republican Senators to participate.

But not all Republican Senators are accepting this process. Three have rejected it, including Senator McCain who said on Friday:

“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do.’’

When the first ACA repeal bill failed last summer, McCain said:

“Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.”

This sounds like you in 2010. Except you were in the minority then, and McCain is in the majority now. Was your “indignity” sincere? Was your appeal for a fair process based on principle? Or were your complaints only political posturing that you ignore now out of hypocritical convenience?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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