Home > Dana Milbank, Health Care > Dana Milbank: Senators don’t need to “understand” the health-care bill before voting for it

Dana Milbank: Senators don’t need to “understand” the health-care bill before voting for it

From Dana Milbank’s piece in yesterday’s Washington Post:

[Senator Coburn] went to the Senate floor just before noon Wednesday and asked Democrats to agree to an amendment to the health-care bill that “would certify that every member of the Senate has read the bill and understands it before they vote on the bill.”

Understands it? Would there be a quiz? Would the exam be scored by the Congressional Budget Office? When Democrats understandably rejected this idea, Coburn responded with a parliamentary maneuver that stopped all action on the floor until the Senate clerk could read aloud every word of a 767-page amendment offered by Sanders.

Hold on a minute; let’s just soak that in for a second. Milbank thinks it’s more ridiculous for Coburn to expect senators to understand the bill than to expect that they read it in its entirety. Democrats, Milbank says, “understandably” thought it a silly notion, so they “rejected this idea.” So, what — it’s laughable, now, this silly expectation that legislators understand what they’re voting on before they cast their votes? What is a legislator’s job, if not primarily — I’d say solely — to understand the legislation they vote into law?

Yet this responsibility to know what one is voting for — how it will improve or worsen the system, what kind of impact it will have on Americans, what cost it will be to their government — is not a responsibility at all; at least, not to Milbank and Senate Democrats, anyway.

Nope, on all matters, but particularly right now on health care, senators ought to just take Reid at his word that the bill does what he says it will do: which is to say, add 30-plus million people to the system without increasing costs, without sacrificing coverage — what should glare as a simple arithmetical impossibility to those with even remedial math skills and a grasp of basic logic.

But this isn’t wholly inconsistent with Milbank’s approach to journalism, so it should have come as no surprise to me; he himself doesn’t seem to understand policy, so if he, the Distinguished Commentator from the Post, doesn’t need to understand something before pontificating on it, then hey, why should a U.S. Senator?

Categories: Dana Milbank, Health Care
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