Dateline Washington - March 15, 2012
In its ninth attempt in three years to pass a comprehensive health care bill, the House of Representatives may have finally hit upon a legislative formula capable of meeting the rigorous standards of the United States Senate.
"No one is entirely happy with this bill, but a majority of members say they could vote for it if someone was holding a gun to their head," declared recently-elected Speaker of the House Bart Poostak, who appeared on Meet the Press Sunday afternoon wearing a .357 Magnum in his congressional shoulder holster.
In spite of the speaker's upbeat assessment, however, many House members continue to cite concerns over a number of controversial provisions contained in the final bill. They single out for particularly harsh criticism an amendment added in the final hours of floor debate that would, in effect, circumvent the 13th Amendment's ban on slavery. For their part, supporters of the bill are quick to point out that the legislation provides an "opt-out trigger" for states who choose not to participate in the "Human Livestock Initiative" as it's come to be known. The proposed trigger would become available to qualifying states north of the Mason-Dixon line immediately following a fifteen year mandatory trial period during which all states would be required to participate.
"I believe this historic compromise is the key to passing an equitable and affordable health care bill the American people can live with," said Senator Joseph Liebegeld, speaking at a gathering of executives from the Involuntary Guest Worker Transportation Consortium of Connecticut. "It squarely faces the simple truth that unwarranted government interference in the labor market was a bad idea back in 1865, and it continues to hamper our free enterprise system to this day. Only by allowing small business owners unfettered access to a fettered labor force will we succeed in re-establishing America's economic leadership in the world."
Senator Liebegeld went on to cite a recent Congressional Budget Office Study projecting a 900 billion dollar savings over the next decade as a result of a pilot program designed to introduce forced labor into the nursing profession. He also pointed out that if the "Nurse/chattel" program proved to be a success, it would likely be expanded to include other key sectors of the economy.
In addition to the slavery-restoration clause, the proposed legislation would also ease restrictions on a variety of activities that have largely fallen into abeyance in recent years, including corrective corporal punishment of women by their husbands, trial by drowning, forced female circumcision, and human sacrifice.
Virtually the entire Congressional Black Caucus has signed a petition vowing to vote down the bill unless the slavery restoration provision is struck from the final version. The Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues expressed similar concerns about the corporal punishment and genital mutilation clauses in the proposed legislation.
But several Blue Dog Democrats offered words of caution to the nay-sayers on the left.
"With all due respect, I would urge my African-American and female colleagues to view this bill in its entirety, rather than focusing on a few of its minor short-comings," said Rep. Tobias Dunderhead, conservative Democrat of Nebraska. "Perhaps they would do well to remember that it's their constituents who stand to gain the most in terms of health care benefits from this legislation. Given that we seem to be granting a lot of 'special rights' to women and blacks these days, the least these folks can do is get behind what we in the Congress consider a good faith effort to improve the quality of their lives."
Meanwhile, in a move widely viewed by pundits as a desperate attempt to head off primary challenges on their right flank, all fifty-seven members of the Conservative Party caucus (along with the lone surviving Republican member in the House, Maine's Lumpia Schmoe) have continued to ignore the entire issue, concentrating instead on shoring up what remains of their political base by attending as many possum barbeques, home-school graduation ceremonies, and one-syllable adult spelling bees as their busy schedules will allow.
These Conservatives have good reason to worry, according to spokeswoman Vandala Harquebus of the "Beyond the Palin" movement, which opposes all forms of immigration, taxation, birth control, science, electricity, fire, soap, and agriculture using anything other than a stick.
"Gummet bad," she explained. "Gummet willy bad. Want no gummet!"