As I look over the outlines of the congressional Republicans’ effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I see precisely one element that’s worth supporting.
That would be the end of the “individual mandate” that requires all Americans to have health insurance or else face a federal penalty. That particular part of the ACA has bothered me from the get-go.
The rest of it? I cannot accept what the GOP has tried to do — in secret, with no Democratic input, no public testimony (other than the angry rhetoric members of Congress have heard at town hall meetings across the country).
This is star chamber legislation, despite what Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today said to the contrary.
Which brings me to my major point.
The process stinks to high heaven. Yes, it stinks even more than the way the ACA came into being, which wasn’t ideal, either. Still, the Democrats who ran Congress in 2009 at least were able to solicit public commentary while seeking in vain for contributions from their Republican colleagues in crafting the legislation.
Now we hear from former President Obama, who today weighed in with his scathing critique via Facebook. “Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm,” Obama wrote. “And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”
Why is it mean? It gives tax breaks to the wealthy; it rolls back Medicaid insurance for poor Americans; it wipes out federal money for Planned Parenthood, a major contributor of health services to women.
The Senate version of this new measure resembles the House version. The House managed to approve it with a 217-213 vote. Today, four conservative GOP senators said they can’t support the Senate version, which — if they hold their ground — dooms the measure.
McConnell is going to tempt them with goodies and other amendments. We’ll have to wait for whatever rabbit McConnell pulls out of his hat.
If the end justifies the means by which congressional Republicans have cobbled this legislation together, then we’re witnessing an exercise in political cynicism at its worst. The GOP aim — to my way of thinking — has been solely to strip Barack Obama’s legacy of this landmark law.
Let’s all wait now for the Congressional Budget Office — the famously non-partisan auditing agency — to “score” this latest GOP monstrosity. If the numbers show what previous CBO analyses have revealed — that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance — then we’ll get to listen to GOP lawmakers criticize the CBO for being too, oh, dire or negative.
The dance, then, will continue.
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