Political Gamesmanship Grotesque in the Face of Healthcare Debacle

18 Nov 2013


Friday, Real Clear Politics shared that 39 House Democrats helped Republicans pass the “Keep Your Plan” Bill in a 261-157 vote “allowing insurance companies to continue selling non-Obamacare-compliant policies on the individual market for one year.”  These 39 Democrats telegraph panic that smacks of running from political fallout, with Senate Democrats like Mary Landrieu proposing a similar fix.  Whether such a bill is workable and whether one considers the Affordable Care Act a long term blessing or a travesty, it is also troubling that a number of Republicans are using Healthcare.Gov’s disastrous rollout to score political points.

The media, likewise, seems more focused on calling this President Obama’s “Katrina” moment, asking if his presidency is over, rather than pushing for solutions to a flawed law now controlling one sixth of the economy.

Just as I was critical of the disrespect inherent in this Administration’s cluelessness and lack of attention to the practical workings of this website or law, I am equally frustrated by Republicans…

“…who have been weighed down by their own poor approval ratings after the government shutdown, [and] will continue to try and use fallout from the law’s problematic rollout to drive a wedge between Democrats.

“They’re in for a long difficult time of dealing with the consequences of this thing. This is not a onetime event the way the government shutdown was,” Rep. Tom Cole, a deputy whip, told reporters.

“We were able to put ourselves in a pretty deep hole in a matter of a couple weeks. And, God bless the ACA, somebody threw us a lifeline and pulled us right out again,” he said. But, the Oklahoma congressman cautioned, “we can put ourselves right back in the hole again.”

“God bless the ACA?”  The Affordable Care Act, or any legislation meant for the benefit of the American people, is not about politicians “pulling themselves out of a hole.”  While President Obama was forced to apologize and vow correction of the mess, we need solutions, not a continuation of obstructionism or people on either side of the aisle gleefully rubbing their hands together, cheering for the misfortunes of their opponents.

RCP’s Carl M. Cannon noted that in President Obama’s apology, he admitted to not considering the 5% of Americans buying insurance independently, though that percentage translates to millions.  Small employers may also be likely to pay a penalty rather than continue to offer employee coverage, thus forcing millions more into private exchanges, pushing the 5% number much higher.  Cannon aptly sums up the problem here:

“Shouldering blame is admirable, and one wouldn’t want to discourage it. Yet, his explanation is both wanting and revealing. It’s wanting because it demonstrates only a passing familiarity with the intricacies of an issue Obama always claimed was near to his heart.”

President Obama’s repeated “fumbled football” references speak to the fact that for those inside the Beltway, this is a game.  Politicians of either stripe are not forced to contend with the human consequences of the legislation they impose or block.  We are.  It’s about time both sides dedicated themselves to those they are supposed to represent, rather than their own aggrandizement.

Our current toxic political environment is such that one party would deliberately smash or sit on a good idea rather than contemplate that their opposite be credited with a win.  This is not an episode of “Amazing Race.”  The contest should be to see how fast they can help us win.  The President, Secretary Sebelius, along with nay-saying Republicans, need to remember the horrid stress caused to millions looking for solutions to their health care problems and costs.

Republicans may think they are going to win the midterms even without a better solution to the Affordable Care Act than screaming “repeal” all day.  The work of this Administration is incompetent, even negligent on this score, but faced with a choice between incompetence and those who do little more than scream “no” at the top of their lungs, the result is anything but predictable.  Especially after a costly two-week shutdown that looked like little more than expensive foot stamping.

If Republicans are able to advantage themselves in the midterms as a result of this Administration’s “fumble,” a lack of workable solutions going forward will only ensure they get ousted at the next cycle.

Democrats own this law lock, stock and suitcase.  Still, Republicans do themselves no favors by acting like Chicken Littles screaming “the sky is falling.” Taking the high road, rolling up their sleeves, no matter how that is received by the other side, is the only way to go here.  As to Democrats, they had better hunker down for a lot of deep (and rapid) soul searching and figure out how to effectively repair a law that was bulky, misrepresented and ill-conceived, with an implementation contract awarded to a company with numerous failures and red flags on its record.

The President knows his credibility has taken a huge hit.  Deservedly so.  And the few well-intentioned actors on both sides are continually drowned out by the herd mentality of party leadership.

No matter what ill will exists between Republicans and Democrats, their gamesmanship can never outweigh the needs of the American people.

Is repair possible?

This is a minute example, but during the sequester, Congress faced a rapidly approaching recess with furloughed air traffic controllers threatening long waits at the airport that would ruin their weekends.  Congress penned legislation to put them back to work so hastily, it had to be hand written.  They got the job done.  For their own benefit, they moved efficiently and in a bi-partisan fashion.

When we stop being polite and demand both sides do the same for us, we may see something more resembling a bipartisan fix.  Until then, business as usual: more apologies, excuses, finger-pointing and snickering into handbags.



Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin, a shocking exposé deconstructing the biased media narrative plaguing women who dare to lead.

Available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon. #1 on Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.

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