Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Rube's Game of an Executive Order

Rumors swirl that Stupak is close to or trying to strike a deal with the Obama administration, trading the votes of the Stupak bloc in exchange for Obama issuing an executive order restating the language of the Stupak amendment from the House bill (or something like that). One can't help but wonder what a bad deal this would be for the anti-abortion Stupak bloc, assuming, that is, that their real aim is not just getting the merest fig-leaf of political cover to vote for the bill.

Executive orders depend upon the whim of one man: the president. They can be reversed at a moment's notice. The fact that an insurance mandate is in the health-care bill is all that Stupak members need to know in order to see how much they can rely upon the permanence of executive whim. Candidate Obama campaigned against the individual mandate for health insurance. Candidate Obama also campaigned against taxing health-care benefits. The Senate bill has both a mandate and these taxes. Many on the left and right have noted the host of Obama's broken promises for health-care.

To observe this is not necessarily to castigate the president for making deals. That's what politicians do. But there may come a time (and it might not be very far away) when the president could make a deal to reverse or otherwise defang his executive order. And the Stupak bloc would have traded their votes for nothing.

The Pro-Choice Caucus said that it would revolt against the health-care bill if the Stupak measure was put into the legislation. But where is the wrath about the executive order? If the Pro-Choice Caucus is willing to abide that order's promised existence, could it be that they don't have much faith in its permanence? If they're willing to let it stand, perhaps they feel it is that much weaker than the Stupak legislative language.

Changing legislation requires at the minimum the will of 260+ people (in the House and in the Senate). Changing an executive order requires the will of one. Do Stupakers really want to hang everything on the convenience and the ambition of one person?

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