- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2009

‘Vapor bill’

Despite repeated promises from the Obama administration to make legislation more transparent and accessible, the Senate Finance Committee will vote on a plain-English version of health care legislation Tuesday, but not the actual legislative text that could become law.

The committee rejected, mostly on party lines, an amendment from Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, requiring that the final version be made public for 72 hours before holding a committee vote on it. So, now the easy-to-read description of the bill, called “conceptual language,” will be voted on, rather than the complex legalese required of a final bill that could be made into law. Because of this, some critics have been calling the Senate Finance Committee’s bill a “vapor bill.”

The term was originated by Brian Darling, director of Senate relations at the Heritage Foundation, and Dan Perrin of Redstate.com, and is a play on “vaporware,” a disparaging name for heavily promoted software products that are never brought to market.

Secret plan

Brian Darling believes the “vapor bill,” which was scored in a positive manner by the Congressional Budget Office largely because it is not final, is the first step in the Democrats’ “secret” plan to pass health care legislation before Thanksgiving, without getting into a knock-down, drag-out fight over various amendments in the public eye.

“It gives them a good talking point,” he told The Washington Times.

Mr. Darling has outlined a four-step process that could hurry the process of passing such a massive bill.

He thinks that once the “vapor bill” passes out of committee, Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, will use his powers as majority leader to merge the committee bill with House-approved health care legislation and make other changes that were never approved by the committee.

Mr. Darling believes that in the third step, Mr. Reid will attach his new health care bill to House-approved tax legislation. This would be done to avoid any constitutional problems, as the Constitution requires any revenue-raising legislation to originate in the House. Doing so would be unusual, but legal. Most importantly, it would help streamline the legislative process. If the Senate did pass a tax bill with Mr. Reid’s health care legislation tacked on to it, the House could then pass that entire bill and send it to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

Complicated? Yes. Far-fetched? No, says Mr. Darling.

“I’ve heard leadership staffers openly talk about this,” he said. “And, it makes the most sense, as someone who follows Senate procedure, to get this to the president’s desk without a conference [with the House] and minimal participation by the American people.”

Backstabbed

A day after President Obama spoke at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, NBC’s John Harwood reported that White House advisers mocked, as pajama-clad children, gay bloggers who are pressuring them to enact gay-friendly policies.

“If you look at the polling, Barack Obama is doing well with 90 percent or more of Democrats, so the White House views this opposition as really part of the Internet left fringe,” Mr. Harwood told anchorman Lester Holt during a segment about Sunday’s gay-rights march in Washington. “For a sign of how seriously this White House does or doesn’t take this opposition, one adviser told me today those bloggers need to take off the pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult.”

Pam Spaulding, a gay blogger who writes at Pamshouseholdblend.com, said this undermines President Obama’s speech at the HRC dinner on Saturday.

“So which Barack Obama is it - the one who said to challenge him, or a fragile flower that panders to LGBTs, then has a coward source backstab?” she wrote on her blog Sunday evening. “To me the [White House] has just declared war on us after a wine and dine with the right kind of LGBTs that don’t make trouble for them. Someone has to answer to this. Or do I just need to fold my hands in my pajama-clad, Cheetos-stained lap like a good homo?”

Desert cross

While the Supreme Court examines a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union asking that a cross installed in the Mojave Desert to honor fallen soldiers be brought down, veterans were making their case for the cross all around Washington last week.

World War I veterans originally erected the cross in 1934 to memorialize fellow troops who were killed. Today, the ACLU argues that because the cross was on federal land, it should be removed.

During their D.C. tour, a pair of veterans from California stopped at the John Lyons Veterans of Foreign Wars for brunch Sunday.

One of them, Rob Cluff, showed the tattoo of the cross he had inked on the back of his left calf. He said six other veterans got similar tattoos at another event to show support for the cross. Some wear wrist rubber, camouflaged wristbands with the name of www.donttearmedown.org printed on them, the name of a Web site created to save the cross.

While in Washington, Mr. Cluff, fellow veteran George Mader and others picketed on the Supreme Court steps and visited many monuments, memorials and museums, which caused Mr. Mader to wonder when the ACLU would start directing their efforts there.

“After all, what is the Arlington Cemetery on?” Mr. Mader asked of the national memorial, on federal land, where thousands of crosses are staked.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision about the Mojave cross sometime in the spring.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] washingtontimes.com

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