Desperate times call for desperate measures. And everyone seems desperate this week….to either enshrine the Senate health care legislation into law, or to stop it. There’s a new sense of urgency, tension and drama. The stakes are huge, the consequences profound. Both sides seem to be laying everything on the line now.

The WSJ calls it an ‘Abuse of Power’, a ‘rendezvous with liberal destiny.’

What we are about to witness is an extraordinary abuse of traditional Senate rules to pass a bill merely because they think it’s good for the rest of us, and because they fear their chance to build a European welfare state may never come again…

Reconciliation is the last mathematical gasp for ObamaCare because Democrats can’t sell their policy to Senator [Olympia] Snowe, any other Republican, or even dozens of Democrats. This raw exercise of political power is of a piece with the copious corruption and bribery—such as the Cornhusker kickbacks and special tax benefits for union members—that liberals had to use to get even this far.

Suddenly, I recalled the clip from ‘Saving Private Ryan’ building toward the climax when the rumble of tanks could be heard and felt as an overwhelming force of menacing troops descended on the town in which Ryan and a handful of squad members were defending the pivotal bridge from enemy takeover, though they were terribly outnumbered and outgunned.

This feels like that kind of week, with the risk of exaggeration but only for purposes of emphasis.

The goal is to permanently expand the American entitlement state with a vast apparatus of subsidies and regulations while the political window is still (barely) open, regardless of the consequences or the overwhelming popular condemnation. As Mr. Obama fatalistically said after his health summit, if voters don’t like it, “then that’s what elections are for.”

In other words, he’s volunteering Democrats in Congress to march into the fixed bayonets so he can claim an LBJ-level legacy like the Great Society that will be nearly impossible to repeal. This would be an unprecedented act of partisan arrogance that would further mark Democrats as the party of liberal extremism. If they think political passions are bitter now, wait until they pass ObamaCare.

On a less lofty editorial level, pro-life media seeing the inevitable defeat of longstading  Hyde Amendment safeguards against abortion funding, and of conscience protection in health care, are calling the strategy ‘thuggery in Washington’.

All stops are being pulled to ram their health care legislation through – no matter how much the American public opposes it, no matter how much they have to lie and trash the constitution and legislative traditions, and no matter how much they have to bribe or threaten fellow Democrats who won’t go along with their corrupt program.

They’re going for broke.

And, of course, there has been an unprecedented willingness to ignore congressional rules — from the failure to appoint a “conference committee” to negotiate differences between the House and Senate bills, to their current plans to use the reconciliation process to bypass a Republican filibuster.

Expect the tactics to get even dirtier now.

These are the times that try men’s souls, so  a Catholic bishop is calling for prayer and fasting.

“Catholic teaching tells us that our support for the dignity of life includes access to affordable health care. This support, however, cannot come at the expense of the respect for life at all stages, from natural conception to natural death,” wrote [Arlington Bishop Paul] Loverde in a letter posted on the diocesan website.

Democrat leaders in the House of Representatives currently face enormous pressure from the Senate and White House to pass the entire Senate health care bill, which contains numerous pro-abortion provisions and has been deemed by pro-life leaders “the biggest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade.” A House panel is expected to begin reviewing the Senate bill on Monday.

Loverde called for prayer and fasting from members of the diocese “as negotiations that are now underway could lead to further Congressional action [on health care] very soon.” The intention, said the bishop, would be “for protecting the life, dignity, health and conscience rights of every human person in any legislation that Congress considers.”

“I firmly believe that, working together while open to God’s wisdom, the citizens of our nation can respect the dignity of each human person both in law and in practice,” he wrote. “Through our fasting and prayers, we ask the Lord to lead the hearts and minds of our nation’s leaders as they make crucial decisions concerning the protection of life.”

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput came out Monday with a strong statement against what he warns is dangerous extremism in the Senate’s ‘bad bill’.

The Senate version of health care reform currently being forced ahead by congressional leaders and the White House is a bad bill that will result in bad law. It does not deserve, nor does it have, the support of the Catholic bishops of our country… It does not meet minimum moral standards in at least three important areas: the exclusion of abortion funding and services; adequate conscience protections for health care professionals and institutions; and the inclusion of immigrants.

Two of those provisions align more closely with conservative Republicans, while the last one lines up more closely with liberal Democrats. For the bishops, it’s not about what’s politically correct, but what the Church holds as morally correct. And it’s plunging to a climax.

As we enter a critical week in the national health care debate, Catholics need to remember a few simple facts.

First, the Catholic bishops of the United States have pressed for real national health care reform in this country for more than half a century…

Second, the bishops have tried earnestly for more than seven months to work with elected officials to craft reform that would serve all Americans in a manner respecting minimum moral standards. The failure of their effort has one source. It comes entirely from the stubbornness and evasions of certain key congressional leaders, and the unwillingness of the White House to honor promises made by the president last September.

Third, the health care reform debate has never been merely a matter of party politics. Nor is it now. Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak and a number of his Democratic colleagues have shown extraordinary character in pushing for good health care reform while resisting attempts to poison it with abortion-related entitlements and other bad ideas that have nothing to do with real health care. Many Republicans share the goal of decent health care reform, even if their solutions would differ dramatically. To put it another way, few persons seriously oppose making adequate health services available for all Americans. But God, or the devil, is in the details—and by that measure, the current Senate version of health care reform is not merely defective, but also a dangerous mistake.

Barring something like a big cinematic heroic rescue, it is also about to become law.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....