Commentary, Editorial

Voting for a Bill Just for the Sake of Passing Something is Wrong

September 22, 2017

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

The long road for Republicans trying to repeal Obamacare may soon come to an end, one way or another, but it won’t be a legislative accomplishment or testament to statesmanship.

Instead, Republicans are holding out hope that any bill they pass will save them from a restless base desperately waiting for a sign of victory.

For the past eight years, nearly every Republican in Washington has run for office promising their core voter base that they would repeal Obamacare as soon as they gained control of Congress and the White House.

Each year of President Obama’s presidency, the Republicans in the House voted to unfund the signature healthcare bill that help provide coverage to over 20 million Americans that needed health insurance.

In over 50 votes on the floor of the House, Republicans passed bills to remove funding for Obamacare, but, each time, the more moderate Senate failed to take up such bills. For years, politicians made campaign promises to repeal a law they knew President Obama would veto if any such bill ever reached his desk.

Republicans raised and spent more than $200 million on television ads attacking Obamacare. They campaigned for office almost exclusively on repealing Obamacare.

Every Republican candidate for President last year promised to repeal Obamacare.

Then Donald Trump won a surprising upset election and became President.

Republicans immediately saw an opportunity to finally deliver on the many promises to unravel Obama’s most lasting achievement.

But, as Cervantes wrote in Don Quixote, “Del dicho al hecho hay gran trecho”. Or, easier said than done.

By the time Republicans set out to craft a repeal bill, concern had grown among voters that simply repealing Obamacare would leave millions of Americans without health coverage. Even some Republican Congress members publicly stated they would not vote for a repeal without a replacement, putting House Speaker Paul Ryan in a difficult position to find a bill that could garner enough votes to pass.

Suddenly, Republicans were forced into a situation where they had to lead, not simply oppose policies put forth by Democrats. Even Paul Ryan admitted they had been an opposition party for 10 years, and they were not ready to govern.

The bill that was finally put up for a vote in May passed with only two votes to spare after 20 Republican members voted against it. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that over 24 million Americans would lose health insurance under the bill. The bill then moved to the Senate.

In the Senate, another version of a repeal and replace was drafted and voted on in July, but that bill failed when Senator John McCain cast the deciding NO vote. That bill was called a “skinny repeal” that really only shifted funding directly from the federal government to federal block grants issued to states. The bill was nothing more than political symantics to appease Republican voters.

Since then, Republicans have continued to scheme on how to pass a repeal bill that will placate their voter base, but also not result in a backlash from others adversely affected by the dramatic cuts in insurance coverage to millions of Americans.

This week, Republicans announced a plan to revive a Senate repeal and replace bill that may have enough votes to pass. At first it sounded like a creative compromise had been reached when cooler heads prevailed.

That may have been wishful thinking.

This week, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said he could think of ten reasons not to vote for the bill, but that Republicans had campaigned on repealing Obamacare so they have a responsibility to vote for it. He basically said he’d vote for it, but doesn’t like it.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has called it “a really crappy bill.” He will most likely vote against it.

The fate of the bill, then, rests in the hands of the three Republican Senators that voted against the previous version of the bill in July. McCain, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, and Maine Senator Susan Collins. If any of the three vote against it, the bill will fail.

McCain has opposed the truncated process used to write the bill behind closed doors and without public input. And Murkowski and Collins have said their states would lose federal money to replace insurance coverage lost under the repeal.

If these usually independent and policy-minded Senators vote against the mostly symbolic bill, the effort to repeal Obamacare could finally come to an end.

After years wasted opposing a health coverage program that really did help millions live healthier lives, maybe Republicans will finally move on to work toward improving the status of health care in a meaningful way.

Enough playing politics with people’s lives just to score cheap political points. Republicans in Washington seem more interested in getting elected than actually doing the job, but their games affect people in ways that put lives in real danger.

Voters should keep that in mind during the election next year.

Thomas Jefferson once warned, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”

We deserve better.

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