Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Political scientist and high priest of Beltway centrism, Norman Ornstein, has a must-read opinion today in the National Journal on the Tea-Publican insurrectionists' attempts to sabotage "ObamaCare." The Unprecedented—and Contemptible—Attempts to Sabotage Obamacare:
When Mike Lee pledges to try to shut down the government unless
President Obama knuckles under and defunds Obamacare entirely, it is not
news—it is par for the course for the take-no-prisoners extremist
senator from Utah. When the Senate Republicans' No. 2 and No. 3 leaders,
John Cornyn and John Thune, sign on to the blackmail plan, it is
news—of the most depressing variety.
I am not the only one who has written about House and Senate
Republicans' monomaniacal focus on sabotaging the implementation of
Obamacare—Greg Sargent, Steve Benen, Jon Chait, Jon Bernstein, Ezra
Klein, and many others have written powerful pieces. But it is now
spinning out of control.
It is important to emphasize that this set of moves is simply
unprecedented. The clear comparison is the Medicare prescription drug
plan. When it passed Congress in 2003, Democrats had many reasons to be
furious. The initial partnership between President Bush and Sen. Edward
Kennedy had resulted in an admirably bipartisan bill—it passed the
Senate with 74 votes. Republicans then pulled a bait and switch, taking
out all of the provisions that Kennedy had put in to bring along Senate
Democrats, jamming the resulting bill through the House in a three-hour
late-night vote marathon that blatantly violated House rules and
included something close to outright bribery on the House floor, and
then passing the bill through the Senate with just 54 votes—while along
the way excluding the duly elected conferees, Tom Daschle (the
Democratic leader!) and Jay Rockefeller, from the conference committee
The implementation of that bill was a huge challenge, and had many rocky
moments. It required educating millions of seniors, most not
computer-literate, about the often complicated choices they had to
create or change their prescription coverage. Imagine if Democrats had
gone all out to block or disrupt the implementation—using filibusters to
deny funding, sending threatening letters to companies or outside
interests who mobilized to educate Medicare recipients, putting on major
campaigns to convince seniors that this was a plot to deny them
Medicare, comparing it to the ill-fated Medicare reform plan that passed
in 1989 and, after a revolt by seniors, was repealed the next year.
Almost certainly, Democrats could have tarnished one of George W. Bush's
signature achievements, causing Republicans major heartburn in the 2004
presidential and congressional elections—and in the process hurting
millions of Medicare recipients and their families. Instead, Democrats
worked with Republicans, and with Mark McClellan, the Bush
administration official in charge of implementation, to smooth out the
process and make it work—and it has been a smashing success.
Contrast that with Obamacare. For three years, Republicans in the Senate
refused to confirm anybody to head the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services, the post that McClellan had held in 2003-04—in order
to damage the possibility of a smooth rollout of the health reform plan.
Guerrilla efforts to cut off funding, dozens of votes to repeal,
abusive comments by leaders, attempts to discourage states from
participating in Medicaid expansion or crafting exchanges, threatening
letters to associations that might publicize the availability of
insurance on exchanges, and now a new set of threats—to have a
government shutdown, or to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, unless the
president agrees to stop all funding for implementation of the plan.
* * *
What is going on now to sabotage Obamacare is not treasonous—just
sharply beneath any reasonable standards of elected officials with the
fiduciary responsibility of governing. A good example is the letter
Senate Republican Leaders Mitch McConnell and Cornyn sent to the NFL,
demanding that it not cooperate with the Obama administration in a
public-education campaign to tell their fans about what benefits would
be available to them and how the plan would work—a letter that clearly
implied deleterious consequences if the league went ahead anyhow.
McConnell and Cornyn got their desired result. NFL Commissioner Roger
Goodell quickly capitulated.
* * *
When a law is enacted, representatives who opposed it have some
choices (which are not mutually exclusive). They can try to repeal it,
which is perfectly acceptable—unless it becomes an effort at
grandstanding so overdone that it detracts from other basic
responsibilities of governing. They can try to amend it to make it work
better—not just perfectly acceptable but desirable, if the goal is to
improve a cumbersome law to work better for the betterment of the
society and its people. They can strive to make sure that the law does
the most for Americans it is intended to serve, including their own
constituents, while doing the least damage to the society and the
economy. Or they can step aside and leave the burden of implementation
to those who supported the law and got it enacted in the first place.
But to do everything possible to undercut and destroy its
implementation—which in this case means finding ways to deny coverage to
many who lack any health insurance; to keep millions who might be able
to get better and cheaper coverage in the dark about their new options;
to create disruption for the health providers who are trying to
implement the law, including insurers, hospitals, and physicians; to
threaten the even greater disruption via a government shutdown or breach
of the debt limit in order to blackmail the president into abandoning
the law; and to hope to benefit politically from all the resulting
turmoil—is simply unacceptable, even contemptible.
One might expect this kind of behavior from a few grenade-throwing
firebrands. That the effort is spearheaded by the Republican leaders of
the House and Senate—even if Speaker John Boehner is motivated by fear
of his caucus, and McConnell and Cornyn by fear of Kentucky and Texas
Republican activists—takes one's breath away.
I hear you, Norm. I have been posting this for a long time. Once again, Norman Ornstein is too polite and politically correct to call this for what it is: insurrection and sedition against the government of the United States.