Saturday, June 29, 2013

The U. S. Senate passed...

...a bipartisan immigration reform bill this week by a vote of 68-32. (I'll pause for a moment while you reread that sentence.)

Now, forgetting for a minute that the bill has absolutely no chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, it's still worth noting that this is how the legislature is supposed to work.

As my high school civics textbook would have explained it, in order to solve a problem, the two parties come together and, through a process of give-and-take, formulate a solution. Not everyone's happy, but in the end a bipartisan bill gets fashioned and sent to the president's desk for his signature.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

And then I read an article on the front page of the Times this morning, "Contraceptives Stay Covered in Health Law":

Despite strong resistance from religious organizations, the Obama administration said Friday that it was moving ahead with a rule requiring most employers to provide free insurance coverage of contraceptives for women, a decision that has touched off a legal and political battle likely to rage for another year. 

And I thought, if the Republicans had taken part in crafting the health care bill in 2009 (like they just did with immigration), they might have been able to get the administration to compromise on this point.

To back up a little, before the financial crisis hit in the Fall of 2008, health care reform polled as the number one domestic issue in America. After his inauguration, in order to stem the panic, President Obama passed the largest stimulus bill in history and rescued the U. S. auto industry. Next, he and the Democrats in Congress turned their attention to health care reform. While Democrats had been pushing for a single-payer system for decades, they yielded to reality and put forth a reform package based largely on Republican ideas from the 1990s.

This is where the opening sentence of this post comes in. The Republicans in Congress could have said, "We all agree that the dysfunctional health care system is the number one domestic problem facing America. And we appreciate your willingness to pass a Republican bill. So let's all roll up our sleeves and get to work and write bipartisan legislation which will address this problem."

Instead, the GOP said, in effect, "We're going to do everything in our power to obstruct health care reform. First of all, our constituents -- the health care lobby -- don't want reform. (A dysfunctional system rewards some at the expense of others.) Second, we don't want to give this new president any more legislative victories (the public might get the wrong impression). If we can obstruct him at every turn, we might be able to portray him as ineffectual and win back the White House in four years. Even though it didn't work with Bill Clinton in the '90s, the economy is in the worst downturn since the Great Depression and likely to remain that way for some time. If we can just run the ol' four-corner stall, we can use a slow recovery to our advantage."

The result (in case you've been out of the country) was that the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 with exactly zero Republican votes. And, by choice, they had exactly zero input.

Now if the GOP really cared -- really cared -- about contraceptives (or anything else in the ACA), they probably could have gotten the Democrats to compromise in 2009 in return for their support. (That's what happened with the immigration bill.) But, instead, they boycotted the process and now have to live with the consequences.

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