Two interesting pieces on the Republican party’s effort to stop the impending launch of Obamacare exchanges tomorrow by shutting down the government, and if necessary, defaulting on the national debt.
The first is from Politico’s Roger Simon, who’s well-respected here in DC, and thus when Roger has had it with the GOP’s antics, it’s a sign of greater trouble for the Republican party and it’s smoke-and-mirrors efforts to convince the American people that it’s really the Democrats trying to shut down the government, and not the Republicans.
In the past, I would complain that Congress was dysfunctional. Today, I would take dysfunctional. Because when the extreme right wing of Congress functions today, it functions with such malicious intent, with such perverse glee at frustrating the will of the people, that one does not know whether to laugh or cry.
We live in a time when outright buffoonery passes for statesmanship. We live in a time when a 21-hour non-filibuster filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) leads not to general hilarity but serious consideration of how it will help Cruz run for president in 2016.
Nor can the tragicomedy even be questioned. When a reporter asked Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Saturday what he would do if his efforts to defund Obamacare should fail, Issa stuck his nose into the reporter’s face and shrilled, “How dare you presume a failure? How dare you? How dare you? How dare you?”
How dare us. Our leaders must not be questioned! They are beyond question. And, in some cases, beyond hope.
Of course, my favorite story from the weekend is from the NYT late last night. It seems that the Republicans have a secret plan to force the defunding of health care reform: Make everyone in Congress join Obamacare exchanges.
Republican lawmakers said on Sunday that the House leadership had one more card to play, but that it was extremely delicate. They can tell Mr. Reid he must accept a face-saving measure, like the repeal of the tax on medical devices, which many Democrats support, or they will send back a new amendment that would force members of Congress and their staffs, and the White House staff, to buy their medical insurance on the new health law’s insurance exchanges, without any subsidies from the government to offset the cost.
Oh no, not the briar patch!
I can’t imagine anything better than forcing everyone in Congress – hell, everyone in the US government – to use the health care reform exchanges. I argued this during the debate on health care reform three years ago. Not only is it patently unfair that federal employees receive subsidized insurance, but it’s absurd that Republicans, who regularly complain about socialism taking over America, do as well.
[UPDATE: It appears the NYT didn't explain the issue well. The amendment wouldn't force Congress to buy insurance on the exchanges. They're already required to under existing law. The amendment would take away the employer subsidies for said insurance. I'm still not terribly sympathetic. I worked on the Hill. And members of Congress, the nice ones at least, treat their staff like their kids (with all the good and bad that that entails). I still think there's some merit in members of Congress learning first-hand, via their own families and via their staffs, how expensive health care is for the rest of us. And while I sympathize with pro-ACA staff, I don't sympathize with those who were against health care reform. If they didn't get a $5000 per person subsidy from the federal government to pay their health insurance every year, perhaps they'd be a tad more willing to consider more far-reaching reform to our health care system, as they'd understand just how god awful expensive it really is.]
There’s a reason that Republicans think our nation’s health care system isn’t broken. Their health insurance is so cushy that they don’t realize what it’s like for the rest of us. They have no idea what it’s like to try to get new insurance when you have a pre-existing condition, be it asthma, a broken wrist, or simply being a woman. 40% of Americans have a “pre-existing condition” that would have cost them more for health insurance, or excluded them entirely, on the open market. Members of Congress never had to worry about it.
Of course, the irony is that under the Affordable Care Act, politicians on the Hill will no longer need to worry about pre-existing conditions. Though they’ll still have to worry about health care being awfully expensive. But too bad. My health insurance in DC is awfully expensive too, and I went years without adequate prescription drug coverage (which Obamacare may now fix). So as far as I’m concerned, let the Republicans put everyone in the federal government into the health care reform exchanges. Not only will it guarantee that they learn how regular Americans get their insurance, but it will also help the exchanges be all the more affordable for everyone else.
So yes, dear Republicans, do throw us in the briar patch.