Congress Must Now Either Save
Or Kill D.C. General Hospital
May 2, 2001 (EIRNS)The Washington D.C. Financial Control Board's April 30 diktat, privatizing all public health care in the nation's capital against strong and deep public opposition, did not end the months-long fight to keep D.C. General Hospital open as a public hospital. It simply means that every member of Congress will now be forced to vote within 30 days, on a choice between fascist economics, and the principle of the General Welfare.
Within hours of Monday's dramatic events, in which the Control Board used 150 police to close its "public hearing" against 3-400 opposed activists, and attempted to ram through its corrupt deal to privatize and close D.C. General, Lyndon LaRouche's movement was organizing resolutions from elected officials and caucuses around the country. These call on Congressmen to step forward and block the Control Board's new fiat. Three large Democratic organizations in Michigan--the 11th and 13th C.D., and Metro Wayne organizations--35 members of the Michigan House of Delegates, and members of the Detroit City Council, are already mobilized to get Michigan Congressmen to block the Control Board's illegal action. Resolutions were introduced May 1 into the Missouri and Alabama Houses of Representatives, urging Congress to intervene to keep D.C. General open.
LaRouche noted on May 1 that the D.C. General Hospital question is a test-case by which the American population will judge the Congress; and that Congress' action can define the fate of the depression-threatened U.S.A., one way or another.
In Washington itself, the District's Republican Party organization has sent its opposition to the hospital takeover, to Congress: the District's Democratic Party meets May 3 on the burning issue. Members of the City Council, unanimously and vehemently opposing to the takeover, are meeting with Congressmen.
This fight is only now escalating, because the Control Board's virtual police-state actions of April 30--and May 1, when it moved to fire the hospital's management and announce layoffs to hundreds of its staff-- widely exceed the powers Congress gave that body, and Congress must vote on these actions within 30 days. There will be no rubber-stamp.
Why Congress Must Vote
In violation of its Congressional mandate, and acting behind locked doors under heavy police protection, the District of Columbia Financial Control Board on April 30 unilaterally rammed through legislation privatizing the city's health care services. The Control Board's action was classified as both "emergency" and "temporary," and this action must be approved or disapproved by Congress within 30 days. The Control Board also issued a "permanent" form of this decree, but this form also must be voted on by Congress--it gives "hospital privatizers" $500 million of District budget funds over 5 years.
The Control Board's action was taken in the face of the unanimous opposition of the D.C. City Council -- Republicans and Democrats alike. The privatization program is also opposed by every professional medical society in the District.
Two Council members--Democrat Kevin Chavous and Republican David Catania--have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging the Control Board's action, on the grounds that it is ultra vires, unconstitutional, and in violation of the Control Board's own statutory authority as granted by the U.S. Congress.
They show that:
- (1) The Control Board lacks the authority to enter into a contract of this duration and magnitude (a $500-million, five-year contract), and that the powers to enter into such a contract are reserved to the Council under Federal and District law.
- (2) The Control Board has no authority to issue orders to the Council--such as ordering it to enact specific legislation (the privatization plan), or to repeal legislation (that which created the Public Benefit Corporation, which has been operating D.C. General Hospital). Furthermore, while Congress has given the Control Board the authority to issue an order or regulation within the authority of the Mayor or an agency head (i.e., to stand in their shoes), Congress did not give the Control Board the power to act in the stead of the Council.
- (3) By overriding the actions of the elected Council, the Control Board has violated the rights and duty of the Council "to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of the District of Columbia."
- (4) Doctors Community Healthcare Corporation (DCHC), the parent company of the prime contractor in the privatization scheme, "has well-documented and substantial financial difficulty ... has posted large annual losses for the last three years" and has a poor reputation in the business community. (Moreover, DCHC has been investigated and sued for racketeering in a number of jurisdictions.) The Control Board has refused to make its "due diligence" investigation of DCHC available to the Council.
In fact, the Control Board passed three almost-identical versions of its Privatization Act "legislation" on April 30. The "emergency" version is only in effect for 90 days. The others only take effect after a 30-day "review period" by the Congress (30 legislative days, not calendar days) under the D.C. Home Rule Act. During that time, Congress can pass a joint resolution disapproving the legislation, which invalidates it.
The Control Board is perpetrating a fraud on the District and the Congress with this corrupt contract and privatization legislation. The privatization deal will cost lives and will devastate health care for the poor and the working poor, while clearing the way for a trillion-dollar real estate scam in the area of the city where D.C. General Hospital has stood for 200 years. This scamh depends on reducing city services and driving poor and minority residents out of the District--the insidious practice known as "Negro Removal."
Congress must immediately overturn this illegal action by the Control Board, and approve the supplemental funding for D.C. General Hospital, which the D.C. City Council has already, unanimously, authorized.