Douglas Turner: Freedoms under attack by GOP Senate leaders - The Buffalo News
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Douglas Turner: Freedoms under attack by GOP Senate leaders

WASHINGTON – When delegates were feverishly searching for compromise on a Declaration of Independence 231 years ago, economics – business – was their main concern. The document was primarily about taxes and trade restrictions imposed by Britain’s mad King George III. It was chiefly about how to lawfully get money and keep it.

However, the declaration is larded with references to political freedom, and process – warning the king that his “just powers” – should come from “the consent of the governed,” meaning the people, and condemning the king-tyrant for “altering fundamentally the forms of our [colonial] governments” at will, courts and all.

Political freedom, process and the rule of law is the bedrock of our ability to make money and keep it.

So after two wars of liberation from Britain, we painstakingly wrote laws and rules for Congress that are supposed to assure our economic liberty, our financial independence.

Today, those freedoms are under savage attack – not by Islamic terrorists or Russian hackers – but by the Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate. The 52 Republican members of the Senate’s majority have decided to allow 13 members of the GOP leadership to try to rewrite Obamacare, a set of laws and regulations numbering into the thousands of pages. These codes influence no less than one-sixth of the economy. This process is being pushed hard by the party’s president, Donald Trump.

Ordinarily, a proposal of this size would be subject to open, televised hearings by at least three Senate committees, forums that include Democrats, not just 13 members of the Republican majority, who are now operating in secrecy. And just who is allowed into these dark conferences? Senate staff, certainly, and probably the widest range of corporate lobbyists. There is no sworn testimony taken, least of all the recorded kind.

A printed, detailed bill should have been widely available to all stakeholders. Instead, a vague outline was circulated.

Each Senate committee would ordinarily be required to approve the plan before it went to the full Senate floor for debate, amendment and a vote. All this public process is to be bypassed with a device called budget reconciliation.

To some of us lay people, this sounds like a lot of useless formality, until you look at what this Senate junta, this cabal has produced. You have to ask: What kind of people would cut off health aid to 22 million people this decade and another 35 million in the next, without any faithfulness at all to due congressional process?

Thirteen men decide who lives and who doesn’t. It is just a tiny step from despotism; from, if you will, from fascism.

The nation’s mayors don’t like the plan, few of the governors do. Yet the GOP wants to plunge ahead with it. Like all health care plans, any gold-plated plan for members of Congress, their staffs and their relatives will continue.

Some opportunistic senators, like Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are voicing support for a federal, single-payer health care plan. They should pause to read an inspector general’s report for the Department of Veterans Affairs about the VA hospital in Los Angeles. It said that 43 percent of the hospital’s patients who died between October 2014 and August 2015 were waiting for appointments or needed tests.

So far, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the minority leader from New York, isn’t embracing single-payer. He has urged Senate Republicans and Trump to start over from scratch and build a whole new replacement for Obamacare.

According to the Capitol Hill blog, The Hill, Richard A. Epstein, law professor at New York University, says, “there is no way, politically or economically, to fix health care with one grand maneuver.”

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