An Eye-Opening Account Of Health Care Lobbying
November 30, 2009
By Cliff Kincaid
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League claims in a press release that President Obama has double-crossed the Catholic bishops on the matter of abortion funding in the health care bill. "The Senate has just completed its version, and it contains nothing like the language of the [anti-abortion] Stupak amendment" in the House bill, notes Donohue.
The implication is that Obama favored the funding ban in order to get the bill out of the House and now opposes it. The bishops have been "betrayed," Donohue claims.
But who played into whose hands?
One of the sharpest critics of the political left on the scene today, Donohue may be failing to confront the left-wing and even socialist tendency in his own church. The shocking truth is that the bishops, their lobbyists, and the Vatican itself worked hand-in-glove with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a pro-abortion Catholic. In fact, according to one sensational report, Catholic lobbyists were "summoned" into Pelosi's office to make a deal.
Information about Catholic lobbying on Capitol Hill during House deliberations over health care legislation has been leaking out in bits and pieces. Now, however, Julia Duin of the Washington Times has put it all together. Rather than feeling betrayed by Obama, her extraordinary article describes "jubilation" by the bishops and their lobbyists over the health care legislation as they meet this week in Baltimore, Maryland, for a conference.
"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was taking a lot of the credit for getting more than 60 Democratic votes on Nov. 7 for a last-minute amendment to President Obama's health care bill that says no federally subsidized insurance plan can cover abortion," she reported.
Duin said she approached the issue with keen interest. "I was curious about what kind of behind-the-scenes work the USCCB [U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops] staff did," she said. "We all knew that various bishops were calling House members; retired Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick's call to Mrs. Pelosi's office from Rome is well known, as was Chicago Cardinal Francis George's call to House Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio to make sure Republicans didn't scuttle the amendment."
"Although Cardinal McCarrick walked away when I approached him about his call from the Vatican, some of the others involved in the lobbying were more forthcoming," she said. "There were four USCCB staff members shuttling between various offices on Capitol Hill that weekend, especially on Nov. 6, the day before the Stupak amendment and the final bill passed. And they didn't come uninvited. 'We were summoned to the Hill by the speaker,' one of the quartet told me. 'She needed the votes.'" Duin names the names of those staffers. I have emailed the USCCB asking how many of them are registered as lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
Did they not understand that the anti-abortion amendment put forward by Rep. Bart Stupak was a temporary measure to get the bill passed and let the Senate work its will on the legislation? This is an obvious story for the Catholic press, but one that should interest the secular media as well. In other words, were the bishops used? Or did they let themselves be used?
The end result, as Donohue now fears, will likely be socialized medicine without any new restrictions on abortion. It will be a major victory for Obama and his socialist backers.
If socialized medicine comes to America, Obama will have the Catholic bishops to thank. They kept the House bill alive, working at the direction of Speaker Pelosi, when it appeared that the whole package was going to go down to defeat.
Writing on the Newsrealblog associated with Frontpagemag.com, Calvin Freiburger points out that the official position of the bishops on so-called universal health care is shared by the forces on the political left. But it's difficult to get these basic facts reported in the major media. Too often it has simply been reported that the bishops were opposed to the Obama plan. In fact, their opposition was largely limited to the abortion matter.
Freiburger notes that Catholic Priest Jonathan Morris, a Fox News analyst, was on Sean Hannity's program and tried to claim that the bishops favor some vague "universal right to have access to basic health care" but not "socialized medicine." Freiburger quotes from an official USCCB document in which they explicitly call for the federal government to have a role in guaranteeing that "right." There is no question that the bishops favor a strong federal role. Indeed, they want the legislation to cover illegal aliens. National health care could also be a device to subsume many of the costs currently being born by Catholic Hospitals.
"The modern Left has successfully hijacked many religious institutions, and conservatives do themselves no favors by denying the problem," notes Freiburger.
The fact is that many conservative Catholics do understand the problem and they have contacted me, encouraging more coverage of what the bishops have been doing. One told me, "The USCCB has virtually handed over to the government every activity that used to be understood as the proper realm of private, voluntary charity." He points out that Catholic Charities gets billions of government dollars. Indeed, in 2008, according to the organization's own figures, federal government revenue accounted for 67 percent of its $3.9 billion total income.
This Catholic, who has worked in Washington, D.C. for many years, is so cynical that he even doubts that many of the bishops mean it when they say they're opposed to abortion being covered under the health care bill. He said, "Look for any 'opposition' to the billions that the federal government spends on 'family planning.'" The implication is that their anti-abortion position is more rhetorical than real.
Raymond Arroyo, the host of Catholic television network EWTN's "The World Over" program, has stated that half or more of the bishops voted for Obama, despite his radical pro-abortion record.
Interestingly, Arroyo is on the board of directors of Donohue's organization. Perhaps they should begin a discussion of what the bishops knew and when they knew it when it comes to the national health care scheme being pushed through Congress. It's getting pretty late, however, for answers.