Senators Challenge Health Care Bill Section Making Death Panels Permanent

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 22, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senators Challenge Health Care Bill Section Making Death Panels Permanent

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 22
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Two pro-life senators plan to raise a constitutional challenge to a section of the Senate health care bill that makes the infamous "death panels" permanent. They say it is unconstitutional to pass a law that prevents Congress from overturning the law at a later point.

Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina and John Ensign of Nevada raised a Constitutional Point of Order on the Senate floor against the bill on behalf of other Republican lawmakers.

The Senate will vote tomorrow on the bill’s constitutionality.

At issue is Section 3403 of Senator Harry Reid’s manager’s amendment that the Senate adopted Tuesday morning and is now part of the pro-abortion, government-run health care bill.

The section, on page 1020, says "it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection."

That would be a problem for any section of any bill but the language in contention concerns pro-life advocates because it is the so-called death panels section whereby regulations are imposed on doctors and patients by the Independent Medicare Advisory Boards.

"This is not legislation. It’s not law. This is a rule change. It’s a pretty big deal. We will be passing a new law and at the same time creating a Senate rule that makes it out of order to amend or even repeal the law," DeMint said in a Monday night Senate speech.

"I’m not even sure that it’s constitutional, but if it is, it most certainly is a Senate rule. I don’t see why the majority party wouldn’t put this in every bill. If you like your law, you most certainly would want it to have force for future Senates," he continued. ‘I mean, we want to bind future Congresses. This goes to the fundamental purpose of Senate rules: to prevent a tyrannical majority from trampling the rights of the minority or of future Congresses."

"This is not liberty, it is tyranny of good intentions by elites in Washington who think they can plan our lives better than we can," DeMint complained.

Erick Erickson of the Red State blog points out that the bill would also violate the internal Senate rules.

"In the past, the Senate Parliamentarian has repeatedly determined that any legislation that also changes the internal standing rules of the Senate must have a two-thirds vote to pass because to change Senate rules, a two-thirds vote is required," he said.

"Today, the Senate President, acting on the advice of the Senate Parliamentarian, ruled that these rules changes are actually just procedural changes and, despite what the actual words of the legislation say, are not rules changes. Therefore, a two-thirds vote is not needed in contravention to longstanding Senate precedent," he added.

"When confronted with the facts, the Senate Democrats ran for cover. The Senate Democrats are ignoring the constitution, the law, and their own rules to pass Obamacare," he concluded.

Related web sites:
See the video of DeMint’s remarks at

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