In my various roles in the conservative movement one fear that has followed me from place to place is fear of mission creep. If I work at a “tax and spending group” doesn’t everything in DC involve some sort of taxing and spending? If I work at a “family” group don’t all issues ultimately affect the most important core of any civilization – the family? And now that I am with a strictly pro-life group – does fighting for quality of life qualify as a “pro-life” stance?
I think in each of my roles I have been lucky to be included in those decisions and, in my opinion, those groups I have worked at have stayed true to their core mission for the most part. However there are issues that happen in DC that while on the surface might seem outside of the mission parameters of an organization – they in fact are essential. One of those issues is Presidential nominations for when it comes to Washington, D.C. and Presidential power – personnel IS policy.
I will be the first to point out that most of President Obama’s nominees need to be blocked due to them begin to radical to hold government office. A number of Senators from both parties have done what they could to stop some of these nominees from getting confirmed. However too often Senators defer to the President in power, forgetting it is their role to “advise and consent”, not “roll over and sit.”
Look at early in the Obama Administration. The fact that Dawn Johnsen, President Obama’s nominee to the Justice Department, disagrees with ANY form of parental rights when it comes to their children getting an abortion IS relevant. Or that it is troubling that the President’s nominee to the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chai Feldlum, believes that sexual license ALWAYS triumphs over religious liberty. And the fact that Kevin Jennings helped form an organization that fights against parental rights in their children’s education, while teaching young kids explicit and dangerous sexual techniques, is so germane to his role at the Safe and Drug Free School Office that to ignore it is almost criminal. While Dawn Johnsen was blocked, Kevin Jennings and Chai Feldblum were not and Ms. Feldblum is still in power today.
Too often, and especially in this Administration, these bureaucrats, be they political appointees or otherwise, abuse the office they are given. Think of the recent IRS abuses, Homeland Security designating pro-lifers as “potential terrorists” or the Justice Department unilaterally deciding what laws they will enforce and which ones they will ignore. It is the role of Congress to ensure such abuses do not occur, either through hearings process after such abuses happen or during the nomination process to ferret out nominees who are likely to abuse the system for personal or ideological gain.
Lesson number one in how personnel are policy is Kathleen Sebelius, currently testifying today in front of the Senate Finance Committee. When she was up for Health and Human Services Secretary I was very vocal in my belief she should not be given the power over the American health care system and I was not alone among pro-lifers. While at the Family Research Council I put together a backgrounder that documented her close ties to the abortion industry as well as her support of a larger government role in health care. Less than a year after her successful nomination the U.S. Congress gave her what some people described as more power than the President.
After the passage of Obamacare the American Spectator did a cover story on the new powers of “Empress Sebelius.”:
There are more than 2,500 references to the secretary of HHS in the health care law (in most cases she’s simply mentioned as “the Secretary”). A further breakdown finds that there are more than 700 instances in which the Secretary is instructed that she “shall” do something, and more than 200 cases in which she “may” take some form of regulatory action if she chooses. On 139 occasions, the law mentions decisions that the “Secretary determines.” At times, the frequency of these mentions reaches comic heights. For instance, one section of the law reads: “Each person to whom the Secretary provided information under subsection (d) shall report to the Secretary in such manner as the Secretary determines appropriate.”
The powers given to Sebelius are wide ranging. In the coming years, if she remains in office, the former Kansas governor will be able to determine what type of insurance coverage every American is required to have. She can influence what hospitals can participate in certain plans, can set up health insurance exchanges within states against their will, and even regulate McDonald’s Happy Meals. She’ll run pilot programs that Democrats have set up in an effort to control costs, and be in a position to dole out billions of dollars in grant money.
But the full breadth of her powers will be known only over time, due to the ambiguity of the language in many parts of the health care legislation. As conservatives make the case for repealing ObamaCare over the course of the next several years, it will be imperative to highlight the arbitrary new powers given to an unelected bureaucrat.
Just this past spring former-Senator and current president of the Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint made a similar point:
A 2010 Congressional Research Service report found that the number of new bureaucracies “that will ultimately be created” by ObamaCare “is currently unknowable.” Little wonder that Vice President Biden boasted shortly before the law was passed, “We’re going to control the insurance companies.”
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While Mrs. Sebelius is doing some tough dog and pony shows in front of Congressional committees due to the poor performance and roll out of the key signature law of her entire reign at HHS their also appears ultimately there will be little accountability.
I know what you are thinking: “Tom McClusky is so smart (and humble) and if we all only had listened to him.” However that is not my point (though I modestly couldn’t disagree). My point is that if you care about a certain issue you should pay attention to the political appointee that the President is going to put in charge of affecting that issue. Personnel is policy, and in this administration it is also about power.
LifeNews Note: Tom McClusky writes for March for Life.