Suppose a ship is sailing in stormy seas and is sinking because there's a big hole in the bottom. What to do? Well, if the captain is Harry Reid, he calls for another hole to be drilled, and while the crew is worriedly contemplating what would be a scuttling job, he'll shout out, "Do we have 60 votes yet? Can we pass this thing now?"

No matter how irresponsible Congress has been for something like forever, or how contrary to the common good politics so often is or how far removed from reality leftist ideologies carry people, you figure some things are inconceivable, beyond even the capacity of those whose past is strewn with absurdities. Ah, but don't underestimate Senate Majority Leader Reid. With him at the helm, nothing is impossible.

So it is that in the fight to pass a health bill no matter what, Reid came up with the idea of extending Medicare to people as young as 55, hoping thereby to assuage some fretting about a disappearing public option within his own party. Apparently, he forgot that with no additional costs whatsoever, Medicare's projected costs already pose one of the gravest domestic perils this country faces.

Or maybe he didn't forget. Maybe he never knew that Medicare has an unfunded liability of something like $38 trillion. Maybe even if he knew that, he did not understand that an unfunded liability is money you are obliged to pay out under current laws and promises, even though you will not have the revenues to foot the bill.

Perhaps no one ever explained to him what this could lead to in the way of deficits and economic ruin, and maybe he doesn't get it that extending Medicare will make the situation worse.

Perhaps, of course, he thinks some plans to reconstitute Medicare payment systems will save hundreds of billions and that this ambition will go forward whether affected older voters are happy with it or not, but even here, someone should tap him on the shoulder and explain, "Not enough, Harry. Not enough. The problem hangs on."

Obviously, in the madhouse confusion that constitutes the making of laws in our country these days, this idea could be replaced by something crazier or even, magically, something slightly less goofy before some final resolution.

It could be that the Democrats will quit looking for provisions to give them the 60 votes that traditionally have been required to move ahead when legislation is threatened with a filibuster. They could junk that democratic safeguard while insisting there's history to be made.

Yes, there is, because over the years, when various presidents have sought the kind of semi-socialist medical system that causes so much pain and suffering in places like England, Congress has wisely stood in the way. But this time around, the determination is something on the order of fanatical, with ludicrous lies that people will die if the Democrats do not get their way.

There have been repeated demonstrations of spendthrift wackiness in Democratic plans. But the Democrats and their fans close their eyes to that.

It has been shown how the steps proposed will do nothing to improve the quality of care. The Democrats don't listen.

Republicans have come up with prudent means to address the system's worst problems without havoc or steep cost increases. The Democrats and President Obama act as if nothing has been said.

Yes, history could be made here, because when incompetents enthralled with a hubristic sense of mission are leading a nation, they will often do disastrous deeds no future historian can possibly ignore.

Examiner Columnist Jay Ambrose is a former Washington opinion writer and editor of two dailies. He can be reached at: