During the middle ages, a particularly devout group of Christian men and women known as the Anchorites would actually wall themselves up in tiny enclosures leaving only small openings for occasional passersby to offer them food and water. While the tradition of these "Solitaries" gradually fell out of favor over the centuries, we are beginning to see a resurgence of such behavior within the sacred walls of our capital.
Minus of course, the piety, selflessness and vows of poverty, the Democrats currently in power have begun to mimic the Anchorite practice; although the divine favors they seek rest within an entirely different source.
One year into Mr. Obama's presidency, it's hard to recapture the optimism expressed by so many that felt we were destined for a new breed of open and transparent politics. A “Kum ba yah” moment of the highest proportions in which leaders from both sides of the political aisles would link arms and join together to thwart the evils of partisanship and government waste in the bright dawn of a Bush-free era.
After Nancy Pelosi cut the microphones and turned off the house lights when the Republicans were trying to debate the energy bill in 2008, you'd think things could only get better. Who could blame the faithful for believing in the promise of change when Mr. Obama himself proclaimed in January of '08:
That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are.
Carpenters throughout the land began to select the finest boards of oak and cherry in anticipation of White House orders for immense new seating arrangements when the president stated previously:
We are going to have a big table, and everybody is going to be invited, labor, employers, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, patient advocate groups. The drug and insurance companies, they’ll all get a seat at the table. … And we will work on this process publicly. It’ll be on C-SPAN. It will be streaming over the Net.
In an effort to bring some accountability and awareness to the passage of legislation, Obama issued the infamous "sunlight before signing" pledge:
When there’s a bill that ends up on my desk as president, you the public will have five days to look online and find out what’s in it before I sign it, so that you know what your government’s doing.
According to the Washington Times:
Both the omnibus and the defense appropriations bills had been posted for just two days when the president signed them — despite totaling more than $1 trillion in combined discretionary spending and including billions of dollars in earmarks inserted by lawmakers for favored projects.
As he nears the end of his first year in office, Mr. Obama repeatedly has fallen short on his pledge to have all bills Congress sends to him posted and open for comments for at least five days before he decides to sign them.
Alas, it seems that little change has come to D.C. politics. The tables have not only turned in the last year, they've shrunken considerably, and the fierce divide of partisanship grows larger as votes on health care and government spending are split consistently down party lines. To view the new spirit of cooperation and unity at work on the floor of the Senate, take a look at this exchange between John McCain and Max Baucus.
Speaking with Connie Hair about the stimulus bill in November, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence stated:
I think the American people deserve to know that legislation that would comprise an amount equal to the entire discretionary budget of the United States of America is being crafted without a single House Republican in the room.
Regarding the health care debate, Texas Senator Kay Baily Hutchinson claims that:
Republicans have been shut out of the process. There is no bipartisanship here. There were something like 45 amendments on the health care bill that came out of the Senate committee. Two Republican amendments were put on out of 45 offers.
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming adds:
The Senate today passed a healthcare bill that represents politics at its worst. Promises of transparency, fiscal discipline and thoughtful policy debates were replaced with closed door meetings, billion dollar pay offs and partisan tactics.
House Republican Leader John Boehner made the following statements in regards to the Democrat's "bi-partisan approach" to the health care negotiations:
The American people don’t want the future of their health care being decided behind closed doors by three liberal Washington Democrats.
Instead of keeping his campaign promises of transparency, President Obama has allowed Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to operate in secret and play ‘let’s make a deal’ with one-sixth of our economy. It’s just wrong to shut taxpayers out and then spend their hard-earned money on payoffs, kickbacks, and sweetheart deals to jam through this monstrosity.
Rep. Vern Buchanan has introduced a resolution (H.Res. 847) demanding that any health care negotiations be opened up to the public, and Democrats should join Republicans in supporting it. Given all that’s at stake, including whether taxpayer dollars will be used to fund abortions, the American people are right to demand an open and honest discussion of the consequences of this government takeover of health care. That’s what Republicans are fighting for.
When GOP leaders sent a letter to President Obama stating their desire to work with the administration and find agreement on health care reform earlier this spring, they received only a short reply stating that the Democrats "had health care reform under control."
In a continued effort to brand the Republicans as "the party of no," Democratic leader Steny Hoyer made this claim back in September:
In June, House Republicans pledged to introduce a bill to reform America's health care system. Now, over 100 days and numerous excuses later, the ‘Party of no’ has not only failed to produce legislation, but they have yet to offer any real solutions or ideas on how to make health care more affordable and accessible to American families.
While no single bill has been touted as the official Republican alternative, according to Politifact:
Since the beginning of the year, they [Republicans] have introduced more than 35 health care reform bills. Many deal with small slices of the health care debate. For example, one, by Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas, would allow small businesses to band together to negotiate health care plans with providers. Another, by Rep. Darrell Issa of California, would allow nonfederal employees to enroll in the same health care plan that is currently enjoyed by members of Congress and federal employees.
To view some of the proposed GOP healthcare solutions, click here.
In yet another example of Democrat obstructionism, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) actually locked Republicans out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee room. Towns was angered by Republican requests to investigate Countrywide Mortgage's sweetheart deals to VIP's and has refused repeated requests to subpoena the case records.
We've had midnight meetings, locked congressional doors, backroom deals and barrels of pork amidst a steady stream of name calling, foot stomping and pouting. It's hard to tell whether we should call for an investigation or a time-out.
Despite our optimism, the only change coming to our capital has been for the worse. I've always been reluctant to split the vote for a 3rd party candidate, but perhaps the time has come for the American people to sit up and take notice of these ongoing antics.
Our elected leaders need to be reminded that they work for us. Their conduct should be representative of the faith placed upon them and their votes should most definitely reflect the sentiment of the people rather than their belief that they alone know what's best for us.
We do have alternatives, and I'd like to thank President Obama for reminding us what needs to be done before this year's elections. As described recently on The Hill, Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio opposed the $700 billion bank bailout and he was one of only two Democrats to vote against the stimulus and climate change bills.
President Obama admonished DeFazio during a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic Caucus with a veiled threat reminiscent of his Chicago days, "Don't think we're not keeping score, brother."
Well Mr. President, we are keeping score and we will be voting soon. The bible clingers, gun-toters and "potential terrorists" of the Libertarian and Tea Parties will continue to hope that real change will be coming to Washington D.C. after the upcoming elections and you can bet "we'll be voting on it, brother."