Compromise

January 9th, 2010 | Healthcare Reform

Well, it is difficult to believe that we are about to confront an historic vote on the revamping of the health insurance market in the United States. As I noted in an earlier post, "Where Ignorance is Bliss, 'Tis Folly to be Wise," but that notwithstanding, I will decline to refer to the pending legislation as "Reform."

As a long-time student of American History, I paused (or staggered, breathless, as if punched in the groin) when I heard the backroom deal with Senator Nelson termed the "Nebraska Compromise." This called to mind the "Missouri Compromise," a political solution to a decidely difficult (or, rather, dismally sad) flaw in the American System having to do with Slavery back in 1820. I won't belabor the description of the 1820 Compromise, except to state that it allowed Slavery to continue and utlimately led to the War Between the States and the loss of half a million American lives and the destruction of the state of Virginia, home to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe – to say nothing of Thomas Payne and George Patton.

Perhaps more telling about the Legislative Process in 1820 and today is Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement about his magnificent Compromise:

"One way we were able to [secure 60 votes]… was that we had to deal with the art of compromise…"  "That's what legislation is all about; it's the art of compromise…This legislation is no different than the defense bill we just spent $600 billion dollars on. It's no different than any other piece of legislation…I don't know if there's a senator who doesn't have something in this bill that's important to them. And if they don't have something in it that's important to them, then it's doesn't speak well for them."

I wonder whether the "Gentlemen" from Nevada and Nebraska are students of American History? Legislation may be about Compromise, but the nature of that Compromise is driven by the honor of the men and women who negotiate it. Nothing can be sadder – or more disparaging of our democracy –  than the preservation of slavery for an extra 45 years, but the Nebraska Compromise, if it survives, will nonetheless be a lasting stain on our legislative process.

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