Obamacare was a heated topic at Congressional town hall meetings during the hot month of August four years ago. Since then, the Affordable Care Act has gone into law, been approved by a conservative Supreme Court, and then suffered at least 40 votes from the GOP conservatives in the House who are determined to destroy it. Several of the Obamacare provisions have already gone into effect, much to the appreciation of those who have benefitted from them, and others will start in January.
The attitude in many town hall meetings has changed. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) described the large number of votes against Obamacare “theatrics.” He said, “You keep doing this over and over and over again and it doesn’t get anywhere.”
A woman in a meeting with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) a fierce opponent to the law, lost her son to colon cancer. She believes her son, who couldn’t get health care coverage because of a pre-existing condition, might be alive in Obamacare had gone into effect sooner.
Skip Edwards talked about how he and his wife lost their health insurance after the recession took his job. Denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, they could get insurance only from a state plan called Inclusive Health that cost them $1,300 a month.
Many of the GOP congressional lawmakers are still lying to convince people that Obamacare should be repealed. Referring to himself as a light-skinned person, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) told his constituents that the health care reform law is “racist” beccause of the tax on tanning salons. Somebody needs to tell him that tanning causes skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the nation with roughly 170,000 annual cases.
Conservative activists are telling uninsured people that they should stay uninsured to spite the president. The Citizens Council for Healthcare Freedom (CCHF) has launched a “Refuse to Enroll’ campaign, falsely telling people that the IRS can access information on people and employers who use the health care exchanges.
Asked what advice she would give to a 22-year-old who can’t afford health insurance outside exchanges, Twila Brase argued that getting health insurance doesn’t guarantee health care. If the 22-year-old needs medical care, Brase said, the person could pay doctors directly or seek charity care, ignoring the difficulty of finding several hundred thousand dollars after an unexpected automobile accident or diagnosis of cancer. Another option, according to Brase, is to sign up for coverage when it’s needed. Aside from being short on ethical behavior, Brase doesn’t know that the open enrollment period is from October 1 to March 31, making it impossible to ask for an insurance agent in the ambulance on April 1. In following years, the enrollment is only between October 7 and December 31.
FreedomWorks is asking people to burn their “Obamacare card.” These cards don’t exist so FreedomWorks is printing up fake cards.
Jon Perr explained why eliminating Obamacare has become the GOP “holy grail,” to quote President Obama. During the president’s press conference last week, he asked why the GOP’s “number one priority, the one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment, is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care.”
For the past 20 years, Perr hypothesized, the GOP has been terrified that health care reform would succeed. If this were to happen, it would join Social Security and Medicare, both loved by older people, to become the third leg of the U.S. social safety net. All three programs would come from Democrats, giving that party the power. In 1993, William Kristol wrote, “The Clinton proposal [for universal health care] is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party. Its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996….
To avoid Clinton’s plan, GOP Senators Hatch and Chuck Grassley joined 19 other Republican Senators in proposing their own bill that “would have required everyone to buy coverage, capped awards for medical malpractice lawsuits, established minimum benefit packages and invested in comparative effectiveness research.” Sixteen years later, they called their own plan “unconstitutional.”
With the same plan as Obamacare, Massachusetts demonstrates the reaction to the health care reform law. Eighty-four percent of the people in Massachusetts are satisfied, far higher than the 67 percent of people in the U.S. who are happy with their own health care, many of whom who already have government Medicare. Respondents praised high quality of care and good access to medical services, adding that it isn’t hard to find the medical care that they need. In that one state, 98 percent of the residents are insured, compared to 16.3 percent of the people in the nation when Obamacare was passed into law.
In states where legislators strive to undermine Obamacare, millions of constituents will suffer. By contrast, states like California, Maryland, New York, and Oregon are running their own insurance exchanges, and the federal expansion of Medicaid will provide their residents greater coverage and lower premiums.
Far-right congressional lawmakers have come up with what they think is a clever way to get rid of Obamacare. Those lawmakers brave enough to go to their town hall meetings are spreading the word. They plan to shut down the government if Obamacare isn’t defunded. Yoho (the one who believes that Obamacare is racist) thinks that forcing the shutdown will improve our credit rating. He thinks that the rise in debt ceiling and the interest rates is a cause/effect situation.
The last GOP threat to not pass an increase in the debt ceiling shook the world’s economy and brought down the U.S. credit rating. Standard & Poor wrote the downgrade came from “the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also tried to put a happy face on his own threat of a government shutdown when he said that the “shutdown” is just a temporary suspension of nonessential services which happens every weekend. (Tell that to the people who don’t get their money when the shutdown lasts longer than two days!)
Equally absurd is his statement that the five-day and the 21-day shutdowns almost 20 years ago worked really well when it idled 800,000 federal workers. Charles Krauthammer, one of the farthest right pundits, begs to differ:
“Never make a threat on which you are not prepared to deliver. Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans. The first, in 1995, effectively marked the end of the Gingrich revolution. The latest, last December, led to a last-minute Republican cave that humiliated the GOP and did nothing to stop the tax hike it so strongly opposed.”
Washington Post’s Factchecker wrote:
“The government shutdown is what revived [Clinton’s] political fortunes, in part because Republicans appeared too eager for a confrontation, while Clinton constantly emphasized his willingness to compromise within reason…. After that, Clinton never lagged in the polls again.”
Two other presidential wannabes, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have joined Cruz in his insanity. Conservative columnist Mike Gerson refers to them as “a few bold, determined public officials who may rescue Obamacare.” Obviously this is the opposite of their intent, but their fight against the health reform law “discredits responsible opposition and makes a Democratic takeover of the House more likely.” The only reason that Cruz’s strategy could work is if voters blamed President Obama against “a distrusted faction of a disdained institution, which is pursuing a budgetary maneuver that even many Republican lawmakers regard as aggressive, desperate and doomed. “
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told his constituents last week and the shutdown’s victims would be “ordinary Americans”—paychecks for troops, health care for veterans, Medicare and Social Security for the elderly and disabled.
Other statements include:
- “Shutting down the government will not stop ObamaCare.” – Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
- “A denial of reality mixed with a whole bunch of hype…intellectually dishonest…a good way for Republicans to lose the House…destroying the Republican Party.” – Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
- “The political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum.” “A suicidal political tactic.” -Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)
- “Shutting down the government and playing into the hands of the president politically is not the right thing to do. Plus, it is going to do great harm to the American people if we pursue that course.” – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) [I like his putting the good of people in the nation second to politics.]
- “Terror politics.” – Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
- “The dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.” – Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
- “Feckless.“ – Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
The Heritage Foundation, almost a conservative think tank until former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) turned it into a GOP shill, has decided to poll whether a shutdown would be bad for Republicans. The survey lacks any credibility: the questions are seriously biased, and only Republican-led districts were chosen. Watch for the headlines about how a government shutdown is a popular idea.
As Krauthammer wrote:
“How many times must we learn the lesson? You can’t govern from one house of Congress. You need to win back the Senate and then the presidency. Shutting down the government is the worst possible way to get there. Indeed, it’s Obama’s fondest hope for a Democratic recovery.”
Cruz doesn’t seem to be giving up, but his followers are fading away. The 17 Senate supports have dissipated to fewer than a dozen. GOP Congress members are likely to return in September more dysfunctional than when they left.