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Douglas Turner: Reckless health bill may boost Democrats

WASHINGTON – Will they glow in the dark? That is, Republican Congressmen Chris Collins of Clarence and Tom Reed of Corning?

Their two votes put across a health care bill that might well have been written by insurance industry lobbyists at the Trump University School of Medicine.

At the close of Thursday’s razor-thin vote, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi remarked, with not much exaggeration, that the 217 Republicans who voted for this reckless bill will bear the mark of the beast on their foreheads, and that they will glow in the dark.

Not even the sparkling words of the late House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr., D-Mass., could match Pelosi’s imagery.

Thus begins the Democratic Party’s 2018 campaign to regain control of Congress. It’s hard to conceive of the Republicans handing Democrats more heavy artillery, more fireballs, than this bill.

In sum, the House bill contains the perennial GOP shell game of cutting federal funds for the states and needy patients in exchange for giving the states more “discretion.” Maybe the worst feature is that it pits patients with pre-existing conditions against the whiplash of the insurance business and their pals in state government.

Plans for the election are not far off. The Senate won’t take any steps on the legislation until the Congressional Budget Office analyzes it. That will take a month or more. That puts Senate debate in July, which is when Democrats will be firming campaign choices for 2018.

The Democratic Party should be determining what it is, instead of wringing its hands over why Hillary Clinton lost six months ago. Pelosi offered some matchless advice on that score.

She said it is a mistake to kick people out of the Democratic Party because they are not pro-choice. In an interview with the Washington Post, Pelosi said the party needs a broad and inclusive agenda to win back social conservatives who helped Republican Trump to win the presidency.

“This is the Democratic Party,” she said, “not a rubber stamp party.”

This was an indirect rebuke to Buffalo’s Thomas Perez, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Perez recently said the party’s position on abortion is “non negotiable,” and that the party must speak with “one voice” on the subject of abortion. Like Pelosi, Perez attended staunchly Catholic grade and high schools. In Perez’s case, it was Christ the King parochial school in Snyder and Canisius High School.

The Catholic Church teaches that to aid or promote abortion is worthy of excommunication.

Pelosi has danced along the edge, often voting pro-choice. She still considers herself a Catholic. Something may have happened to Perez in his years at Brown University or Harvard Law.

Still on the religious front, Trump signed an executive order allegedly guaranteeing the right of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers to refuse service to same-sex couples planning to get married. Conservative commentators told that the executive order is effectively worthless. All the penalties imposed on vendors for their refusal to serve gay weddings are enforced by the courts. The president, as we have seen, cannot void court orders by presidential fiat.

So it is with Trump’s order lifting the ban on preachers endorsing candidates from the pulpit. This is enforced by 50-year-old legislation. For Catholic priests is a papal ban almost as old.

Frankly, a preacher lurching into politics is a crutch used by ponderous clerics, and a surer way of emptying out pews than a cry of, “fire.”

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