Sen. Orrin Hatch

Post’s Double Standard for Op-Ed Submissions

It’s not easy getting an op-ed into The Washington Post—unless you are a known quantity, if not of reasonable quality.  I’ve had success about a dozen times over the years, but on several occasions I was raked through the coals by editors wanting me to back up my assertions or interpretations.  And I’ve been unsuccessful, too, when editors didn’t think I had a unique perspective on the issue at hand.

But if you’re a usual suspect, you can pretty much say anything—or nothing—and get your column published.  Witness former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich’s op-ed on Sunday: “Annapolis leadership is out of touch on marriage and other issues.”  What was his unique insight?  He starts off talking about the state’s attorney general ruling that same-sex marriages can be recognized by the state, but the clear intent of his column is political posturing.

What strikes me most is not the attorney general’s conclusion but the broader pattern it fits, which should give Marylanders pause: Our political leadership in Annapolis is regularly enacting policies that conflict with mainstream sentiment in Maryland.

Ehrlich makes the usual GOP case against raising taxes.

That decision — raising the sales tax by 20 percent — disproportionately hurt poor and middle-income families and dealt a serious blow to Maryland’s entrepreneurs. Every additional dollar the O’Malley administration takes away from Maryland families means one less dollar they can spend in Maryland’s small businesses. Less business means more layoffs.

The entire argument in that paragraph is specious, but a typical GOP talking point.  He also goes after unions, the GOP’s favorite whipping boys.

Forcing nonunion state employees to pay union dues demoralizes thousands of workers and erodes their financial security for no credible reason.

Which then leads to his grand finale.

Our representatives in Annapolis are out of step with families, employers and taxpayers. If nothing else, Mr. Gansler’s opinion will send lawmakers running for the ideological trenches rather than coming to grips with their spending habits or getting government off the back of job-creating entrepreneurs.

The question is not whether Marylanders want more jobs and less government experimentation with our state’s social fabric; the question is whether their representatives in Annapolis will ever start listening.

What The Post did—and does often—is give politicians a platform to speak their talking points, while you and I need to have a unique voice and point of view.

The newspaper even allows politicians to espouse views that the paper itself has called nonsense.  On the issue of reconciliation, The Post says it’s opposed to using it for the health care bill but points out that Republican objections are hypocritical.

LET’S GET a few things straight about reconciliation, the procedure by which Democrats may be able to pass health-care reform by a simple majority. We aren’t fans of using the reconciliation process for this purpose. To approve a change as sweeping as this on a party-line vote strikes us as risky for Democrats and, pardon the phrase, unhealthy for the country. But questioning the wisdom of using reconciliation is different from questioning its propriety. Republican rhetoric notwithstanding, using reconciliation in this context would be neither a misuse of Senate rules nor, in a historical context, unusual.

The Republican rap on reconciliation is that it is a "little used" (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) "abuse of the legislative process" (Indiana Rep. Mike Pence) that would be used to "jam this bill through Congress" (Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch). This is hard to take from a crowd that just a few years back was moaning about the preeminent importance of the up-or-down vote. In fact, reconciliation is no more a tricky parliamentary maneuver than the filibuster. Senate rules allow a minority to block legislation by requiring 60 votes to end a filibuster. They also provide a way around the filibuster in certain circumstances involving budgetary matters.

…And the biggest abuse of reconciliation rules was engineered by Republicans, when they obtained a parliamentary ruling that reconciliation could be used not only for tax increases, but for tax cuts as well. Those who complain about twisting the rules now weren’t bothered then.

So what does the paper do today?  It gives Sen. Hatch, whose argument it called “hard to take,” prime op-ed space to make the same argument.

To impose the will of some Democrats and to circumvent bipartisan opposition, President Obama seems to be encouraging Congress to use the "reconciliation" process, an arcane budget procedure, to ram through the Senate a multitrillion-dollar health-care bill….

Hatch makes no mention of the fact that Republicans used reconciliation to ram through Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts., which cost two and half times what the current healthcare legislation would cost.

But he has a name, so The Post lets him say whatever he wants.