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A national shame: when corporate interests trump those of the American people

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What we are witnessing taking place in the U.S. Congress is repulsive and revolting; the fact that many of our elected representatives are blatantly and shamelessly stuffing their pockets with campaign contributions from healthcare corporations when, at the same time, they have been charged with the responsibility to develop effective legislation for health care reform. This is a massive conflict of interest and a failure of these legislators to uphold their oath of office. It is a disgrace to this nation and its people, a national shame.

This gross injustice to the American people is happening in full sight of the entire body of the House and Senate; all 535 of our elected representatives. There should be a massive rejection of the shameful behavior of those who are involved with this clear conflict of interest, but there is no outcry from fellow legislators, no demands for some kind of censure, no calls for an investigation; nothing, complete silence, not a whimper, or any objection whatsoever. It is simply accepted and condoned.

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What is happening in this dark scenario is not only a national shame, it is a disgrace and a scar upon the American democracy. The entire issue of health care reform is of critical importance to the future of all Americans, to small businesses and to this nation's on-going solvency. And yet, rather than the issue being taken very seriously, using objective debate and discussion, it has been turned into a feeding frenzy to obtain the campaign contributions that the special interests are dangling in front of our legislators.

The GOP, attached by the hip to their corporate masters, long ago lost its shame and conscience, so it is not the least bit surprising that Republicans are refusing to support any reform legislation. They are bought and paid for so it bothers them not a bit. But, even worse than the stance of the Republicans on this issue, is the behavior of the special group of Democrats referred to as the Blue Dogs in the House and those referred to as the Gang of Six in the Senate. These rogue Democrats are not only refusing to promote the interests of the majority of the American people but they are failing to adhere to their own party's platform that specifically calls for health care reform.

The Democratic Party platform includes a section, "Healthcare for all", which in part, states, "The American people understand that good health is the foundation of individual achievement and economic prosperity. Ensuring quality, affordable health care for every single American is essential to children's education, workers' productivity and businesses' competitiveness. We believe that covering all is not just a moral imperative, but is necessary to making our health system workable and affordable."

This Senate has now proven what many have known for some time; that it does not function as a representation of American democracy. Our nation's founders, when working to complete the U.S. Constitution, had definite misgivings with the idea of including this governmental body in the legislative process of our nation. They knew full well that the idea of having two senators from each state, no matter the population of the state, was one that could cause difficult problems in the future. But, in the spirit of bipartisanship and compromise to finish the Constitution, many of them reluctantly agreed; and now we are suffering the consequences of their decision.

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This conflict of interest in both houses of Congress cannot be allowed to continue. Health care reform legislation cannot be developed that will address this massive problem under these conditions. Senators and representatives cannot honestly and truthfully adhere to their oath of office if they are accepting campaign contributions from one side of this momentous issue.

Here is the oath of office that senators take and I'm sure that many who read this will point out that is says nothing about accepting campaign contributions: "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."

No, the oath does not mention campaign contributions, though I wish it did. The underlined last sentence, however, indicates that among the major duties of the office is to represent the wishes and interests of those that elected the oath taker. And that is exactly what is not happening when any senator takes campaign contributions from the very corporations that are being targeted for reform. The conflict of interest could not be clearer.

But what to do? Among the many rules and regulations of the Senate include censure (sometimes referred to as condemnation or denouncement) that does not remove a senator from office. It is a formal statement of disapproval, however, that can have a powerful psychological effect on a member and his/her relationships in the Senate. Further, in the Standing Rules of the Senate, under ethics, there is a conflict of interest provision that prohibits many situation involving members accepting various forms of compensation that would conflict with the senators' duties of office. Again, none of this reference specifically includes compensation from campaign contributions.

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The makeup of the Senate, as previously stated, is such that it does not truly represent democracy in America. We know that the GOP and a special group of Democratic Senators from this nation's least populous states, mainly in the South and the West, have strong connections with the largest health care providers, and are shamelessly taking campaign contributions from those corporations while they are a part of the legislation process. We also know that their actions are a direct conflict of interest and that they are blatantly siding with those who feed them money, while the interests of the American people have no impact on their decision-making.

This is a sad state of affairs for our nation. From my research it appears that there is no action that can be taken with these rogue Senators to force them to uphold their oath of office and the U.S. Constitution. They should be censured but they apparently will not. That has not been done for many years. There should be some way to guarantee that corporate interests cannot be allowed to trump those of the American people, but it is becoming clear that this will simply not happen in this Congress.

One action that the Senate can readily take that will be in accordance with Senate Rules: Majority Leader Harry Reid should immediately remove Senator Max Baucus, D-Mon., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee from his position of authority. This senator, one of the largest recipients of health care industry campaign contributions has clearly proven that his allegiance is to health care corporations and not to the American people. He has used numerous tactics and continuous stalling to find a way to kill the public option. He has shown his true colors that indicate a clear conflict of interest and, for that, he should be replaced by someone who will promote the interests of America. The stench emanating from the actions of Baucus and the other members of that "gang of six" has become unbearable to the people of America.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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