Posts Tagged ‘obamacare’

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House Votes to Repeal Affordable Care Act: Just Symbolic or Signal of Something More?

01.20.11

The GOP-led House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act yesterday, 245-189.

Most likely this is just to placate the base who the rank-and-file riled up heavily in the campaigns last fall with their anti-Obamacare talking points, since a similar measure looks to die in the Senate, which is still led by Democrats. And even were that not the case, President Obama would still have veto power.

While it’s no surprise really that the votes went this way, it still seems like a waste of time, energy, and money. Yet another case of politics over governance – something which can be defended when running for office, or even as the minority group in all branches of government, perhaps. But not for those in power.

Because what good is passing a bill through one branch of government when you know that it has virtually no chance of making it through the other?

At some point, it just comes down to doing something. If the cost-constraining measures don’t work well, instead of just repealing it and going back to the status quo which everyone agreed wasn’t sustainable either, propose a new method. Offer an alternative instead of just going backward. Do something rather than just ensuring that we’ve all done nothing.

Hell, why not grab Rep. Paul Ryan’s health care reform proposal off the shelf and vote on that? That’d be creating an alternative rather than just voting to not do anything.

The notion of sweeping legislation seems to be off the table for Republicans. A big issue that came out of last year’s health care reform was just how huge it was and how even some Congresspeople hadn’t read the whole thing. It makes sense then that the GOP would go after specific reforms one at a time, even if that brings its own issues along, too.

Republicans say there’s no timeline for their “replace” legislation, but if they’re serious, they’ll have to start advancing specific proposals by the summer.

The likeliest prospect Republicans have for success in the short term lies in taking on the 1099 tax reporting requirement for businesses. It’s been widely criticized as a paperwork nightmare. Even the White House wants to scrap the provision, and the Treasury Department has already taken action to limit its scope. But the two political parties disagree on how to go about undoing the requirement, so an early resolution seems unlikely. Lawmakers have time; it doesn’t take effect until next year.

My emphasis. Both parties agree that this specific item in the law should be changed. This is a great place to start: a point of reference on which both can say, “Yeah, that bit doesn’t work.” At least they don’t have to argue that something is broken while the other side says it’s fine. Which means they can just get right to problem solving: “Let’s figure out a way to fix it.” That’s working together. That’s compromise. That’s using different ideas of how things should work to make the law better. Granted that’s no easy task either, whatsoever; but, it’s far more productive than just taking a symbolic vote on total repeal of everything – even the stuff that arguably works.

But Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas still sees value and importance in the general repeal.

“Unless we repeal the law in the House, we don’t have any credibility to do anything. This establishes Republicans’ credibility to negotiate and deal with the Senate and the president.”

I disagree. The GOP could establish credibility just as well – if not even better to a large swath of Americans – by using their majority to provide solutions to those issues they have with the law rather than just scrapping it altogether and starting over again. That merely showcases their voting majority at the expense of their credibility to negotiate – especially when the repeal seems to be falling mainly down party lines.

Given the polls that show that the overall law tends to show up as unfavorable to the majority of Americans while the individual aspects of the law tend to be favorable, the real work needs to be done on improving the parts to make the whole better. Hopefully the House will still seek to achieve these goals even if the repeal dies in the Senate as expected. Then we all win: the GOP saves face by doing what they could to satisfy those campaign promises; and we all get an improved health care system.

Photo courtesy of wallyg’s Flickr Photostream.

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