Jul 26, 2013
Sabotaging Obamacare, Republicans in Congress Failing Their Constituents
The latest news reports reveal the real agenda of the Republican Congress: sabotage Obamacare and block people from getting the information they need and the benefits that they’re owed. It’s unconscionable enough that Republicans want to repeal the law and put health insurance companies back in charge of health care, but now they’re actively undermining the law and trying to deny their own constituents access to patient protections and benefits.
According to Reuters, “Republicans and their allies are mobilizing a counter-offensive including town hall meetings, protests and media promotions to dissuade uninsured Americans from obtaining health coverage” and they’re going to “undermine” the benefits. American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein wrote that “what is going on now to sabotage Obamacare is not treasonous—just sharply beneath any reasonable standards of elected officials with the fiduciary responsibility of governing.”
“With the Obama administration poised for a huge public education campaign on healthcare reform, Party officials, political analysts and lobbyists say the coming showdown will mark a new phase in the years-old battle over healthcare reform by shifting the focus from political ideology to specific examples of how ‘Obamacare’ allegedly falls short, just as the administration presses the public on its benefits.
President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy is the first major social program to face a highly organized and well-financed opposition years after enactment. The forces arrayed against it could undermine the aim of extending health coverage to millions of uninsured people at affordable rates, if not enough younger adults sign up to make it economically viable.
A new political playbook for Republicans in the House encourages lawmakers who have voted nearly 40 times to repeal or defund the law to showcase their concerns at town hall meetings and special forums with like-minded young adults, healthcare providers and employers.
‘Make sure the participants will be 100 percent on message,’ the House Republican Conference's August planning kit advises for events with businesses. ‘While they do not have to be Republicans, they need to be able to discuss the negative effects of Obamacare on their employees.’
FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative issue group financed by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, known for funding conservative causes, are planning separate media and grassroots campaigns aimed at adults in their 20s and 30s - the very people Obama needs to have sign up for healthcare coverage in new online insurance exchanges if his reforms are to succeed.
"We're trying to make it socially acceptable to skip the exchange," said Dean Clancy, vice president for public policy at FreedomWorks, which boasts 6 million supporters. The group is designing a symbolic ‘Obamacare card’ that college students can burn during campus protests.
When Mike Lee pledges to try to shut down the government unless President Obama knuckles under and defunds Obamacare entirely, it is not news—it is par for the course for the take-no-prisoners extremist senator from Utah. When the Senate Republicans' No. 2 and No. 3 leaders, John Cornyn and John Thune, sign on to the blackmail plan, it is news—of the most depressing variety.
It is important to emphasize that this set of moves is simply unprecedented. The clear comparison is the Medicare prescription drug plan. When it passed Congress in 2003, Democrats had many reasons to be furious. The initial partnership between President Bush and Sen. Edward Kennedy had resulted in an admirably bipartisan bill—it passed the Senate with 74 votes. Republicans then pulled a bait and switch, taking out all of the provisions that Kennedy had put in to bring along Senate Democrats, jamming the resulting bill through the House in a three-hour late-night vote marathon that blatantly violated House rules and included something close to outright bribery on the House floor, and then passing the bill through the Senate with just 54 votes—while along the way excluding the duly elected conferees, Tom Daschle (the Democratic leader!) and Jay Rockefeller, from the conference committee deliberations.
The implementation of that bill was a huge challenge, and had many rocky moments. It required educating millions of seniors, most not computer-literate, about the often complicated choices they had to create or change their prescription coverage. Imagine if Democrats had gone all out to block or disrupt the implementation—using filibusters to deny funding, sending threatening letters to companies or outside interests who mobilized to educate Medicare recipients, putting on major campaigns to convince seniors that this was a plot to deny them Medicare, comparing it to the ill-fated Medicare reform plan that passed in 1989 and, after a revolt by seniors, was repealed the next year.
Almost certainly, Democrats could have tarnished one of George W. Bush's signature achievements, causing Republicans major heartburn in the 2004 presidential and congressional elections—and in the process hurting millions of Medicare recipients and their families. Instead, Democrats worked with Republicans, and with Mark McClellan, the Bush administration official in charge of implementation, to smooth out the process and make it work—and it has been a smashing success.
Contrast that with Obamacare. For three years, Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm anybody to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the post that McClellan had held in 2003-04—in order to damage the possibility of a smooth rollout of the health reform plan. Guerrilla efforts to cut off funding, dozens of votes to repeal, abusive comments by leaders, attempts to discourage states from participating in Medicaid expansion or crafting exchanges, threatening letters to associations that might publicize the availability of insurance on exchanges, and now a new set of threats—to have a government shutdown, or to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, unless the president agrees to stop all funding for implementation of the plan.
What is going on now to sabotage Obamacare is not treasonous—just sharply beneath any reasonable standards of elected officials with the fiduciary responsibility of governing. A good example is the letter Senate Republican Leaders Mitch McConnell and Cornyn sent to the NFL, demanding that it not cooperate with the Obama administration in a public-education campaign to tell their fans about what benefits would be available to them and how the plan would work—a letter that clearly implied deleterious consequences if the league went ahead anyhow. McConnell and Cornyn got their desired result. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell quickly capitulated. (When I came to Washington in 1969-70, one of my great pleasures was meeting and getting to know Charles Goodell, the courageous Republican senator from New York who took on his own president on Vietnam and was quietly courageous on many other controversial issues. Roger Goodell is his son—although you would not know it from this craven action.)
But to do everything possible to undercut and destroy its implementation—which in this case means finding ways to deny coverage to many who lack any health insurance; to keep millions who might be able to get better and cheaper coverage in the dark about their new options; to create disruption for the health providers who are trying to implement the law, including insurers, hospitals, and physicians; to threaten the even greater disruption via a government shutdown or breach of the debt limit in order to blackmail the president into abandoning the law; and to hope to benefit politically from all the resulting turmoil—is simply unacceptable, even contemptible. One might expect this kind of behavior from a few grenade-throwing firebrands. That the effort is spearheaded by the Republican leaders of the House and Senate—even if Speaker John Boehner is motivated by fear of his caucus, and McConnell and Cornyn by fear of Kentucky and Texas Republican activists—takes one's breath away.
[National Journal, 7/25/13]
More than 60 Republicans have signed a letter urging Speaker John Boehner to defund Obamacare when Congress funds the government in September.
The letter, being circulated by freshman Rep. Mark Meadows’ (R-N.C.) office, doesn’t explicitly say that supporters will vote against a government funding bill if it does not strip funding for Obamacare. But it says that signers of the letter are “urging [Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)] to defund the implementation and enforcement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill.”
Atop the letter it reads “supported by Heritage Action and Club for Growth,” in all capital letters, and highlighted in yellow, referring to the conservative outside groups.
This isn’t the first time a letter has circulated urging Boehner and leadership to defund the law. Last Congress, a similar letter got 127 signatories.
One House Republican — Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana — released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that he would “not going to vote for a continuing resolution that funds ObamaCare.”
This letter includes support from Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Republican Study Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.). Three Georgia GOP Senate candidates — Reps. Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun — signed on.
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