Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Paoli Resident Calls for Fair Play and Common Sense From Elected Officials

The following Letter to the Editor appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life newspaper. Written by Paoli resident Eugene Grace, this letter really hits on what some of us have been thinking lately. Mr. Grace doesn’t write his letter with a particular political view or slant; nor is he suggesting that one political party is better or worse than another. Mr. Grace’s message is simple . . . he is asking for fair play and common sense from our elected officials. An interesting letter — comments?

To the Editor:

Fair play and common sense are the two traits that voters want from their political leaders.

Fair play means simply following the established rules of the game as well as their related customs and traditions. Locally, fair play does not include Tredyffrin’s use of “New Matter” to keep a significant township matter off the published agenda. Locally fair play would not allow the Lower Merion School District to plant remote-controlled webcams into school-provided computers without some form of notice.

Nationally fair play does not include the U.S. Senate’s use of a tactical tool known as “Reconciliation” to pass major legislation. Under “normal” Senate rules, 60 votes are required to move legislation through that body. Reconciliation was developed as a speedier way to move smaller budgetary or tax issues through the Senate with only a simple majority of 51 votes. The Senate’s use of Reconciliation for health care would be a departure from Senate rules and tradition.

Common sense informs us that Tredyffrin should have collected monies owed under previous commitments without further study and that the Lower Merion School District should have provided notice to students regarding a potential invasion of privacy. Common sense says that the U.S. Senate should not employ Reconciliation regarding health care, which constitutes 16 percent of the U.S. economy. Common sense tells us that leaders should lead.

The fact that “The People” are leading on all these issues tells us that fair play and common sense have been thrown to the wind. Common sense tells us that the “leaders” responsible for these decisions should have a similar fate.

Eugene P. Grace, Paoli

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  1. Such a novel idea in this country — to suggest that our leaders should ‘follow the rules’. Mr. Grace’s letter is right on target, why is that when we elect people we assume that they understand the rules and will follow them. I think apathy is one of the reasons that people don’t show up at the polls. Why should we? Nothing seems to change and it doesn’t seem to matter if its the Republicans or the Democrats in power. It’s just more of the same. A disappointed voter.

  2. Grace is wrong in one important detail here. 60 votes are not required to pass legislation in the US Senate except under extraordinary circumstances. Fair play is putting the Senate into a position where any form of legislation, wise or unwise, is treated as extraordinary. A lack of fair play is turning the US Senate into the anti-democratic (small d) tyranny of the minority. As it gives small states like Wyoming much greater say per person than it does those of large states like Pennsylvania, it has always had some of this. Of late, however, it has become far worse in this regard.

    1. that’s what the house of representatives is for… I say let these bozos pass the legislation and the current minority will be a majority in 2010 and then in 2012.
      One of the beauties of the founders ideas was that the MINORITY was to be protected from the tyranny of the majority.

      Go back to when President Bush was in office, and you should hear the soundbites of our current president and Joe Biden, for two examples as to the tyranny of the majority over the then minority when it came to use of reconciliation. What a funny word.

      I have to wonder why, after a year of total Democratic rule, and two years before of Democratic Congressional majorities the economy still is not recovering, no matter what the NY Times says. Why unemployment is conservatively posted at 9.7 percent, and why Mr. Reid was so happy that only 36 or so thousand jobs were lost this time. I am sure it doesn’t include jobs saved.. ( now that is funny, unless you have lost your job.)

      I think i know why, really, but as many continue to blame Mr. Bush, I do too, for everything from my psoriasis to my constipation. But after a year on the job, more for Congress, is it possible they are not doing the right things to get the economy on the right track.. Yea for egalitarianism. Thanks chet

  3. I do not disagree with Mr. Grace’s sentiment, but one of his factual assertions is wrong. There is no “tradition” in the Senate of limiting the use of reconciliation to “small” budget matters. The Republican-controlled Senate passed President Bush’s 2000 tax cuts using the reconciliation procedure. Those tax cuts (which have been estimated to have cost between $1.3 billion and $1.8 billion) are greater than the cost of the health care bill currently on the table.

  4. It’s only unfair when the other side (i.e., the one you don’t support — whichever side that is) uses it. In a democracy, majority rules. In a republic, you give your vote to your representatives. Seems like voters need to be more active in communicating, and voter turn out does have consequences. Plus == reconciliation is what the HOUSE is responding to. The Senate already passed this bill.

    1. My understanding is that reconciliation will be required in both chambers. The House will pass the Senate bill by a simple majority (which is all that is required) and then pass a separate bill to make changes to the Senate bill using reconciliation. That supplemental bill then will go to the Senate, where the Senate will have to pass it by reconciliation. This article makes me dizzy, but seems like a good summary:

  5. Also, any suggestion that using reconciliation to pass health care would somehow run afoul of Senate rules is not correct. The Senate Parliamentarian will reject any part of the health care bill that, under the rules, does not qualify for reconciliation. So any piece of the health care bill that makes it past the Parliamentarian and put to the Senate for a vote will, by definition, comply with the reconciliation rules. I found this article on the topic if you want some more details:

  6. The senate parlamentarian can be be overridden by the vice president, I believe. That bastion of plagiaristic genius.

    1. I am at a loss as to how referring to the Vice President as a “plagiaristic genius” is in any way relevant to this discussion about reconciliation. And the comment seems particularly hypocritical coming from someone who only yesterday claimed that: “I have tried to keep civil conversation going.”

      1. Yes I think it is relevant, at least more so than those folks who cheer Dick Cheney’s heart attacks. The reason it is relevant is because some folks, maybe not you, think he is ill qualified for dog chaser much less VP.. Truth plus opinion is what drives the voters decision. If you want to stay off topic, I will continue…. there are smarter more qualified people that Obama could have chosen. Now , come on, its commom knowledge really.

        So your call, back on topic or back and forth about Joltin’ Joe.

        1. Let’s get back on topic. And the way I’ll do that is this: Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that I agree with everything you just said about Joe Biden. My original point was that if the Parliamentarian says some or all of the bill qualifies for reconciliation, then, by definition, that portion of the bill adheres to the rules of reconciliation and no one is “breaking the rules.” Even if Biden is not qualified to be dog chaser, you agree with that statement, right?

          1. agreed. But I believe that the Vice President (being nice) has the right to override what the parlamentarian does not approve.

      2. Hey Nona, I re read this post of yours. Joe biden has been a plagiarist. Maybe HIS act of plagiarism is not civil.. Sorry to insult your civilities… Didnt think that was uncivil. Funny

    2. Now we are having a real discussion. I did not know about the Vice President’s role in the reconciliation process until you brought this up, but I did some research and you are correct. So thank you, Chet, for teaching me something I did not know. Here’s what I found:

      The Parliamentarian gives advice about procedures to the Senate’s Presiding Officer and but the Presiding Officer is not required to take the advice: The Vice President can be the Presiding Officer during any given session, but he isn’t always the Presiding Officer (though, presumably, he will be for the health care vote): ( Apparently, a VP has not exercised his right to overrule the Parliamentarian in decades:

      If Biden were to override the Parliamentarian, THEN I would be very upset about a failure to follow the rules. Unless and unless that happens, though, I disagree with Mr. Grace’s opinion that pursuing reconciliation for health care is somehow against the rules or unfair.

  7. Wonder if members of our Board of Supervisors saw themselves in Mr. Grace’s Letter to the Editor? Would be nice if they thought about ‘fair play’ in their governing of this township.

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