THE HOUSE: SOCKING IT TO ME

By PATRICK M. COVERT

Ladies and Gentlemen, I happened upon an interview last month in a National Public Radio (NPR) program as I drove to the local mecca of capitalism to buy socks.  The interview was with Brian Lamb, who is stepping down as the chief executive officer of C-SPAN.

 As I got home, new socks in hand, I was inspired to watch C-SPAN’s live coverage of the U. S. House of Representatives. The general debate was related to repeal of provisions of the Protecting Access to Health Care (P.A.T.H.) act, or H.R. 5 of session 112.

I have never watched such debate before, but it definitely held my attention.  The rules of order were closely respected by most representatives and it made for a well-balanced debate.  These men and women are highly respected by their constituents, who expect them to represent their interests in Washington, D.C.  I assume they are intelligent and educated individuals, some introduced by a professional title (“Doctor” or “Lawyer”) in addition to the state and district which they represent. 

Speakers were separated into two factions, those who authored the P.A.T.H. Act and those against it.  Each speaker, pro and con, was convincing.  Each representative, in his own right, was passionate and made great arguments—until they started the familiar, “You don’t want this because you’re Republican,” or, “Democrats are evil, bloodsucking vampires, like ‘Twilight’….”

Ok, maybe I paraphrased.  I read H.R. 5 thoroughly so I could understand what I had watched.  The arguments each side had against the others were either blatant misrepresentations, or carefully worded half truths. The bill has merits, but it contains some redundant “common sense” statements and vague wording open to interpretation. 

I am torn if I had to vote for or against this bill.  Do I think these are good ideas? Yes.  Do I think we need more laws to govern what an intelligent and logical jury should do anyway? Absolutely not!  We supposedly still govern ourselves. This bill takes away power from a jury and contains multiple statements requiring the jury to be misled.

“The jury shall not be informed about the maximum award for non-economic damages.”

A funny thing is: I could not have actually known facts about the bill from listening to these politicians.  I could not have made a decision listening to the debate.  Partisanship is making our government move like a two-ton canoe in the mud, rather than the swift and efficient sports car it should be. 

If every day is like this, it is no wonder nothing gets done in Washington. 

As retired Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said, “‘C-SPAN’ should put the cameras in the cloak room.

“The cloak room,” he added, “is where intelligent and spirited conversations happen, not on the Senate floor.” 

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(EDITOR’S NOTE: The H.R. 5, the P.A.T.H.  Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives 223 to 181 on March 22, 2012, and awaits consideration in the Senate.)

Patrick M. Covert writes from Buffalo, N. Y.