Americans, it is said, don’t care about political procedure — how the House and Senate do things. That’s true. But they’re about to. If, indeed, Nancy Pelosi and Louise Slaughter and the Democrats actually attempt to declare the health-care bill law without its having been voted on, there is going to be a massive populist revolt. That’s not because Republicans will gin one up. It’s because there’s a cultural provenance here.
Everyone between the ages of 35 and 50 in this country probably saw, as a kid, this — I’m Just a Bill — a three-minute-long Saturday-morning cartoon that ran on ABC intermittently for several years. And everybody over the age of 50 probably has an atavistic memory of some “How a Bill Becomes Law” moment in a civics class (they don’t teach such irrelevant matters any longer, I gather). The single thing nonpolitical people may know about legislation is that Congress has to vote on it before the president signs it. The fundamental breach that is under discussion right now, even if it’s been done in minor ways before, is exactly the sort of political action that can explode outward in a million ways, and I suspect that even Nancy Pelosi is aware of the kind of damage she is going to inflict on herself and her own party if she attempts it. Which is why she is going to spend the rest of the week strong-arming Democratic House members any way she can, as Yuval Levin explores here. That, too, presents its own kind of peril, because there is no way the deals she has struck will remain hidden from view, and every one of them will be used as a weapon against her, the Democrat who was bribed, and the party as a whole.
There will be a lull right after President Obama signs it, as the media drop consideration of the controversy to discuss just how historic the historic nature of the historic legislation is, historically speaking, in historic terms … and then Congress will return home for the Easter recess on March 26, and all hell will break loose.