We were met this weekend with the disturbing news that U.S. Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) had finally agreed to vote yes for the Democrats’ healthcare bill, providing the crucial 60th vote and assuring passage of the measure in the Senate.
Upon passage, the House and Senate will appoint negotiators to a joint House-Senate conference committee, which will resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill and send a final product back to both chambers for final approval — only then does the bill go to the President.
Since the beginning of this debate, I have urged my friends, family and constituents to join me in writing, emailing and calling our congressmen and senators to oppose this massive expansion of the scope and reach of the federal government. This is one final such request to the members of this community.
The entire “healthcare reform” project long ago ceased having anything to do with expanding Americans’ access to quality healthcare. It is now purely and simply an exercise in legacy building. The President wants to “make history.”
He has already succeeded, because never in our history has legislation of this magnitude been so unpopular, so reckless, and yet nonetheless rammed down the throats of the American people.
The situation has become so disgraceful that the legislation’s actual substance has become almost irrelevant to those in Congress voting on it. Instead, the only question has become how many members of Congress can the congressional leadership bribe with pork, and how high a price can those members command.
For weeks, Sen. Nelson has posed as a man of principle who could not support a bill that went against his conscience on issues of life. Instead, it turns out that he was simply holding out for more pork for his home state.
In exchange for his vote, the Senate bill decrees that Nebraska will not have to pay its share of Medicaid costs under the new healthcare program. Thanks to this arrangement, you and I, and Americans in all of the other 49 states, will pay Nebraska’s Medicaid costs in perpetuity, all for the sake of gaining Ben Nelson’s vote.
Others senators have cut similar deals, including the now notorious “Louisiana purchase,” whereby Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s vote was obtained in exchange for $300 million in Medicaid funds for her state. Needless to say, this is not the “new kind of politics” we were promised.
Aside from the sheer odor of such arrangements, this legislative sausage-making will have practical, and highly adverse, repercussions for Georgia.
After education spending, Medicaid is the second largest expenditure in Georgia’s budget on an annual basis. Even without the senatorial side-deals, our state will have to deal with the new costs imposed by the Medicaid expansion included in the healthcare reform bill.
I have heard estimates that the costs to Georgia’s budget will be at a minimum in the hundreds of millions to well into the billions over the first five years of the program, depending on whether the final bill resembles the liberal Senate version or the super liberal House of Representatives version.
What our leaders in Washington either fail to grasp or simply do not care about is that Georgia and many other states actually balance their budgets on an annual basis.
Given the massive budget cuts our state has been forced to make of late and will be forced to make again in the upcoming legislative session due to the economic downturn, the imposition of additional costs of this magnitude will be crippling.
It will put the state of Georgia in the position of choosing between raising taxes or making huge additional cuts to services in order to maintain our balanced budget.
In real terms, the Obama-Reid-Pelosi healthcare bill will ensure the state of Georgia will have significantly less resources to educate our children, maintain public safety, provide tax relief to our citizens, and build much-needed transportation and water infrastructure.
All in exchange for a healthcare reform bill that will almost certainly make our healthcare system even worse and our ballooning national debt even larger.
Despite the fact that the president and the congressional leadership seem unmoved by the overwhelming opposition to this bill, it is still important for Americans to make their voices heard regarding this colossally misguided legislation.
Members of the U.S. House and Senate will have to vote on this measure one more time after it comes out of a conference committee. This gives us one more chance to let our voices be heard.
Congressman Westmoreland and Senators Chambliss and Isakson will undoubtedly vote the right way, so please urge any friends or family you may have in other in parts of the state, and in other states, to call their representatives in Washington.
In the meantime, my colleagues in the state legislature and I will continue to look at legal and policy maneuvers we can employ to minimize the impact of this massive federal overreach on our state’s citizens.
In my opinion, it is incumbent upon Georgia, as a sovereign state, to use all available legal and legislative avenues available to it to oppose the continued distortion of the balance between the federal government and the states intended by the framers of our Constitution.
The 10th Amendment specifically states that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. It is critical we do what we can to ensure these basic rights for the citizens of Georgia.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to pursue all available options to preserve the sovereign rights of our state and its citizens.
As one final update to my note last week on the election of a new Speaker of the House in Georgia, the House Republican caucus on Tuesday elected David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) and Jan Jones (R-Alpharetta) as our choice for Speaker and Speaker Pro Tem respectively.
I have worked closely with both of these legislators and know them well and have confidence in their character and ability as legislators to lead this state forward in a very challenging time.
The legislative session convenes on Jan. 11 and I look forward to hearing from members of the community on matters of concern to them throughout the winter and spring. As always, please do not hesitate to call on me if I may be of service.
[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District 72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City.]