11.30.2009 0

Editorial: Senate Should Return Home, Listen to Constituents on ObamaCare

  • On: 12/02/2009 09:55:58
  • In: Health Care
  • When members of Congress returned home for the August recess just a few short months ago, it is said that they had walked into a political buzz saw of opposition to the proposed $2.1 trillion “public option.” As the summer roiled on, Americans young and old proceeded to town hall meetings nationwide, giving their Representatives and Senators quite an earful.

    They were, in turn, ridiculed by their own Congressmen and women. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer leveled the charge that those protesting ObamaCare at town halls nationwide were somehow “simply un-American”. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called them “evil-mongers”. Barack Obama called critics of his health care policy bald-faced liars.

    Congressman Steve Kagen (WI-CD8) said they were “uncivilized,” and Congressman Baron Hill (IN-CD9) called them “political terrorists.” Congressman Brian Baird (WA-CD3) called opponents of the legislation “Brown Shirts” and compared them to domestic terrorists, “Some of the rhetoric that we’re hearing is… eerily reminiscent of the kind of things that drove Tim McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma.”

    As a result, August was, quite simply, a political disaster for Congressional Democrats. According to Rasmussen Reports, at the end of May, when the “public option” debate heated up, the generic Congressional ballot was split, with 40 percent of voters stating they would vote for Democrats, and 40 percent stating they would vote for the Republican.

    By August 30th, Republicans were leading the poll: 43 percent to 36 percent. Today, they lead it 44 percent to 37 percent. Why the change in fortunes?

    Besides the arrogance and hubris displayed by Congressional Democrats, it can be summed up in three words: the “public option.” Sure, there have been other legitimate concerns of the American people that have hurt Democrats politically—soaring unemployment, looming inflation, the $1.4 trillion budget deficit, the $12 trillion debt—but none more so than the impassioned debate on the “public option.”

    Running parallel to the generic Congressional ballot have been public attitudes about the proposed “public option” legislation. In June, the public supported the bill, 50 percent to 45 percent. Within weeks, those numbers had reversed with a majority opposed—and have pretty much held ever since.

    In the latest Rasmussen Reports poll, 53 percent of voters surveyed say they oppose the plan. Only 41 percent support it. Why?

    Quite simply, in late Spring when the debate was joined, the Congressional Majority was rushing the legislation through. They wanted it done before the August recess. They wanted to ram it down the throats of the American people, whether they liked it or not. In short, they wanted to “get ‘er done!”

    This did not sit well with the public, either.

    And the more they found out about the bill, the less they liked it. Yesterday, Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson issued a warning to the Senate: “Members of the Senate should hold things up until after the holidays—because the Majority obviously has not yet gotten enough of an earful of public outrage over the loss of trillions of dollars, rationing of health care away from seniors, raising the cost of premiums, driving the American people off of private health options, and bankrupting the Treasury.”

    Most of all, it has been the proposal itself that has hurt the Majority the most. The truth is: for all of its shortcomings, the American people like their health care—more than they want a government-run alternative.

    They know Medicare and Medicaid are almost bankrupt. They know other entitlements like Social Security will follow. And they know that if the entire health system was put into the hands of Congress and Washington bureaucrats, that it too would be unsustainable.

    They know it intuitively. To be certain, the Senate version of the “public option” will start operating at massive budget-busting deficits starting in 2015, according to an Americans for Limited Government analysis of Congressional Budget Office data. By 2019, the “public option” will have spent some $361 billion more than it took in via new taxes.

    And for every year thereafter, the program would have to be run on borrowed money. On printed money. On higher taxes. The American people know it—which is why they are viscerally opposed to the bill. And why every Senator should be applying the brakes on the “public option” at this critical moment.

    To their credit, four Senators in the Democrat caucus are doing just that: Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, and Mary Landrieu. None have committed to breaking a Republican filibuster against the bill. Two, Lieberman and Lincoln, have said that if the “public option” is not removed, they will join the filibuster.

    They should go further, and encourage their colleagues, their leadership, and their President to lift the political timetable that has been imposed upon this debate. Congressman Henry Waxman epitomized this timetable in a recent exclusive interview with the Washington News Observer: “There are going to be so many pressures next year, especially with the elections looming, that this is our opportunity,” said Waxman. “When the Clinton Administration tried to do it, they pushed it off into the second year, and the closer it got to the election, the special interests were able to bring it down.”

    Waxman is wrong, however, and his error is shared by his House colleagues who wanted this bill passed before August. It is not the special interests that are leading the charge against the “public option.” It is the American people. And if Senate Democrats do not learn this lesson now, the public will surely remind them next November.


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