Saturday, February 13, 2010

America's First Parliament

I've been trying to determine the meaning of President Obama's upcoming health care summit with Democratic and Republican leaders. Then I read a description of how the summit is going to begin and the answer hit me:
The administration's letter invited Democrats Pelosi and Reid, McConnell and House Republican Leader John Boehner, and asked each to designate four other members of Congress to participate.

The invitation list also includes Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Finance Committee; Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; House Ways and Means Committee; House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the House Education and Labor Committee, all of which oversaw the health legislation in both chambers.

The White House said Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Sebelius, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the Office of Health Reform, would also attend.

Obama will make opening remarks, followed by remarks from a Republican leader and a Democratic leader chosen by leaders of their parties, and then the president will open discussion on insurance reform, cost containment, expanding coverage and the effect of health reform legislation on deficit reduction.
In hindsight, the meaning of the event is obvious. President Obama is abandoning the unwieldy American-style government that he can't control and doesn't seem to understand in favor of a parliamentary-style government favored by the European welfare states. Obama's health care conference represents the convening of the "de facto executive branch" or parliamentary cabinet.

Obama will be there as a first-among-equals Prime Minister to both enforce the rules and advance his party's interest. There will be various "Cabinet ministers" present in the form of the most prominent House and Senate leaders. And, of course, there will be a few extra "senior members of the executive" there to give the majority party a modest majority at all times. Once the Cabinet has reached a consensus on health care legislation, they'll send the agreement to the House of Commons and the House of Lords (the House and Senate respectively). Once it passes, Obama in his role of figurehead of state will rubber-stamp the bill and enact it into law.


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