YAHANDA: The opposite of progress
Congress’ proposed method of defunding the Affordable Care Act is impractical and pointless
Pettiness and gridlock in today’s Congress have been accepted as the norm. It is an unfortunate reality, but one that has been validated time after time. Lawmakers frequently propose laws that have no realistic chance of being implemented. And as Congress attempts to pass its newest budget, we have more of the same.
Republicans in the House of Representatives have issued an ultimatum in the form of a bill the House recently passed. The bill’s goal is to defund the Affordable Care Act, commonly (and sometimes derisively) known as Obamacare. This goal is neither new nor unexpected. The way in which Republicans want to accomplish that goal, however, is more radical, particularly for our elected leaders. The bill, which was passed as Congress struggles to determine a new budget, attempts to barter using a government shutdown. If the Affordable Care Act is not repealed, Republican proponents of the bill approve of the government shutting down.
Now, I am not going to comment on Obamacare itself. Even as an aspiring medical school student, I do not know nearly enough about the health care plan’s full contents to give an informed or insightful analysis. I also do not want to get into a debate about Obamacare’s pros and cons. One can be outraged by the Republicans’ new plan of action without even having an opinion on whether the Affordable Care Act is good or devastating for the country. Republicans are making it clear that they are willing to gamble with any negative economic impacts of a government shutdown in order to derail a plan that has been passed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court. This bill is not the first time Republicans have attempted to de-fund or repeal the Affordable Care Act. But this legislative maneuver is particularly foolish.
The bill is Congressional irrationality at its finest, especially when considering that there is no way that it will actually work. Even though it passed the Republican-controlled House, the bill is likely doomed in the Senate and will never be signed into law by President Barack Obama. Most interestingly, there are now reports and estimates that major provisions of the Affordable Care Act would endure through a government shutdown. Much of Obamacare’s funding is provided through mandatory government spending that would still continue even if Congress failed to pass a budget. When a similar situation arose in 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that Obamacare would remain unchanged.
So what, then, is the purpose of the Republicans’ new bill? Is it to announce to the world that conservatives hate Obamacare? Unlikely. Republicans have already attempted to block the president’s health care policy 41 times, and anyone who watches the news or follows any sort of political coverage would know that the Republicans-versus-Obamacare fight is one of the most enduring battles in Congress. Republicans must have known that their bill would not be signed into law. The bill, then, might serve as a symbolic gesture signifying how much Republicans are willing to sacrifice in order to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Either that or Tea Party conservatives have begun to exert a powerful influence on even moderate Republicans.
To that end, although there are some Republicans who are deriding the new bill — such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and political strategist Karl Rove — Virginia’s Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach) was the sole Republican opposition in the House. Rigell remains in favor of defunding Obamacare, yet he opposed the spending cuts that the new bill would incur.
Rigell’s willingness to step over party lines is something that more conservatives and liberals alike should emulate. Politicians on both sides of the spectrum adhering strictly to unyielding principles of either the Republican or Democratic parties is exactly why Congressional stalemates have become the norm and why Congress’ approval rating is embarrassingly low. In this particular case regarding Obamacare and the government shutdown, Congress should be working as hard as possible to come up with sensible bipartisan solutions. That is not to say that I am naively suggesting a groundbreaking work of cooperation between the two parties. But I would think that lawmakers would be vehemently against a government shutdown, as it would be a profound sign of their failure to properly serve the American people. Americans agree: polls by news organizations such as ABC, CNN, CNBC and others indicate that most Americans are against a government shutdown. It is therefore curious why Republicans thought it was a good idea to use a government shutdown as their trump card when attempting to pass a budget.
Republicans do not have to passively accept the Affordable Care Act. But they should realize by now that their current tactics to overturn it have been unsuccessful. Instead of trying to eradicate Obamacare outright, perhaps they should try operating within more restricted — and realistic — bounds. Taking baby steps toward reforming health care would make Democrats more likely to take conservative policies more seriously. Additionally, publicizing and trying to push a pointless bill may be appealing to Tea Partiers, but does not make the Republican Party any more endearing to moderate or unsure voters in future elections. Gambling with a government shutdown, as we will see, is not constructive.
Alex Yahanda is a senior associate editor for The Cavalier Daily. His columns run Wednesdays.