Pelosi Explains Her 16 Words, Digs Hole Deeper

The British politician Denis Healey is generally credited with “the First Law of Holes,” which goes: If you’re in one, stop digging.

Nancy Pelosi has apparently never heard of Healey’s First Law of Holes.

Courtesy of Jonathan Capehart at the Washington Post, Pelosi is trying to explain her infamous 16 words from 2010 about the Obamacare bill: “But we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it….”

During a lunch in the Capitol with opinion writers today, House Minority Leader Pelosi was asked about those infamous words. “It’s because we didn’t have a Senate bill,” Pelosi said forcefully before Eleanor Clift of Newsweek even finished asking her a question about the statement’s context. “We were urging the Senate to pass a bill.”

Those ten seconds, immortalized by Fox News leave out what Pelosi said in the lead-up to those infamous words:

“You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other.  But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket.  Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.”

The key line is the first one. It’s easy to forget the tumult of that time. There was a lot of frustration with the Senate version of the health care reform bill and consternation over the proposed process to get it through the chamber with minimal Republican votes, reconciliation.

“In the fall of the year,” Pelosi said today, “the outside groups…were saying ‘it’s about abortion,’ which it never was. ‘It’s about ‘death panels,’’ which it never was. ‘It’s about a job-killer,’ which it creates four million. ‘It’s about increasing the deficit’; well, the main reason to pass it was to decrease the deficit.” Her contention was that the Senate “didn’t have a bill.” And until the Senate produced an actual piece of legislation that could be matched up and debated against what was passed by the House, no one truly knew what would be voted on. “They were still trying to woo the Republicans,” Pelosi said of the Senate leadership and the White House, trying to “get that 60th vote that never was coming. That’s why [there was a] reconciliation [vote]” that required only a simple majority.

“So, that’s why I was saying we have to pass a bill so we can see so that we can show you what it is and what it isn’t,” Pelosi continued. “It is none of these things. It’s not going to be any of these things.” She recognized that her comment was “a good statement to take out of context.” But the minority leader added, “But the fact is, until you have a bill, you can’t really, we can’t really debunk what they’re saying….”

Now, I know that Pelosi is among the most incoherent and inarticulate Speakers of the House ever, but this is beyond comically unpersuasive.  Really–it took her two years to come up with this?  It is beyond unpersuasive—it is unserious.

As I argued here a long while back, Pelosi’s original 16 words are actually among the most intelligent things she ever said (yes, that’s a low bar for her to reach, like being the tallest building in Wichita, but still. . .), because it expressed the fundamental truth of modern legislation.  Even at 2,700 pages, the Obamacare bill represents a massive delegation of power to the administrators to figure out “what’s in the bill.”  I believe the regulations to implement Obamacare—the real “law” that affects the health care sector—are up to 18,000 pages and counting.  Pelosi surely grasps this, and we should be grateful to her for speaking the “effectual truth” of the matter, as Machiavelli put it.  This latest explanation is just squid-ink.

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