Monday, March 27, 2017

Democrats Could Lead The Bipartisan Revolution

Sometimes an impossible situation presents options and opportunity that weren’t visible when your attention was diverted by bizarre happenings that seemed to defy reality. That is the case with the current Congressional health care debacle that unfolded Friday afternoon (March 24, 2017) with Russian spy stories and the fate of the U.S. Supreme Court playing in the background.

The House Republican caucus was frantically getting an education in the new D.C. math game called Freedom Caucus Integration. Woops, after 7 years and 50+ practice votes and with “repeal and replace Obamacare” reverberating in their brains the new math was not adding up -- they had to withdraw their bill.

Here’s how Freedom Caucus Integration math works: (218 votes needed to pass legislation) does not equal (193 Democrat no votes) plus (approx. 30 Freedom Caucus no votes).

Founded on January 26, 2015, the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) says it “gives a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them. We support open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.”

The nine founding members and the first board of directors included: Scott Garrett (NJ), Jim Jordan (OH), John Fleming (LA), Matt Salmon (AZ), Justin Amash (MI), Raúl Labrador (ID), Mick Mulvaney (SC) [now Trump’s OMB Director], Ron DeSantis (FL) and Mark Meadows (NC). The group of nine founding members in their organizational meeting in Hershey, PA set as a criterion for new members that they had to be willing to vote against then House Speaker John Boehner on legislation that the group opposed. The HFC has now grown to approximately 30 members in districts indicated below.

Congressional District map for Freedom Caucus membership of the 114th Congress. Former members in light color.

Based on the new math, and emboldened by their ability to stop the passage of the American Health Care Act, the HFC is now the major player in Republican politics. They have virtually hijacked the Republican Party. If Democrats continue to hold tight in opposition to one-sided, partisan Republican legislation, nothing will pass the House without the approval of the HFC.

Thus, we’re not just talking about a health care bill, but the complete array of upcoming legislative initiatives that demand attention and political leadership – e.g. the budget; tax reform; immigration; infrastructure; raising the debt ceiling, etc. etc.

After hyping the importance of the need to repeal and replace Obamacare for the last four election cycles and relentlessly by Donald Trump during the Presidential campaign, the Republican response to Friday’s crushing defeat was simply we’re going to drop it and move on to something else.

While controlling the House, Senate and Presidency, the Republican answer to a health care system that according to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is on a “death spiral” and according to President Trump is sure to “implode” and “explode” very soon, is to simply let it spin out of control. President Trump’s response

“So Obamacare is exploding. . . But we're very, very close.  And again, I think what will happen is Obamacare, unfortunately, will explode. . . It's going to have a very bad year.  Last year you had over a 100 percent increases in various places. . . So what would be really good, with no Democrat support, is if the Democrats, when it explodes -- which it will soon -- if they got together with us and got a real healthcare bill. I would be totally up to do it.  And I think that's going to happen.  I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because now they own Obamacare.  They own it -- 100 percent own it.”  
"And this is not a Republican healthcare, this is not anything but a Democrat healthcare.  And they have Obamacare for a little while longer, until it ceases to exist, which it will at some point in the near future.  And just remember this is not our bill, this is their bill. . . So now we're going to go for tax reform, which I've always liked. . .”

The Republican response is give up; blame it on the Democrats and move on to something else. Who cares about the millions of people and businesses who are being affected day to day by a broken health care system that is about to explode? It’s not the Republican’s fault.

So now is the time for the Democrats to stand up for what they believe in and take control of the health care debate. After all, the President said, “They own it -- 100 percent own it.” Now is the time for Democrats to lead the way to a bipartisan revolution. How?

Here’s how. The Democrats know there are problems with Obamacare. Some are market based and some have been inflicted by Republican manipulations and actions in D.C. and the states, designed to make the system fail.

Democrats need to develop (if they haven’t already) the Affordable Care Improvement Act, designed to do what needs to be done to make the Affordable Care Act work better and introduce it in the House and Senate with all the Democrats in both chambers supporting it. Simultaneously, they need to launch a massive public education campaign comparing the Republican and Democratic alternatives.

Now, let’s look at the new math again. (218 votes needed to pass legislation) equals (193 Democrat yes votes) plus (25 yes votes from moderate Republicans). Now where could Democrats find 25 moderate Republican votes?

How about the Main Street Republicans, a group of 70-80 that, “. . .share the belief that governing matters. They’re not coming to Washington to shut government down but to make it work more effectively. They’re conservatives, not obstructionists. They want to address the causes of voter discontent by finding solutions rather than trying to prove how uncompromising they are.” [Real Clear Politics, January 31, 2017].

Or, how about tapping Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich who said on the Sunday talk shows (3/26/17) "You cannot have major changes in major programs affecting things like health care without including Democrats from the very beginning." As reported in the Columbus Dispatch, Kasich calls on "reasonable" Republicans and Democrats to unite and craft a bipartisan fix for Obamacare that preserves expanded Medicaid coverage for the drug-addicted and mentally ill. Kasich said that parts of Obamacare are in "very serious trouble," but reforms can be enacted without throwing out coverage for the additional 700,000 Ohioans who gained health coverage under his acceptance of the Medicaid expansion.

So, it’s highly unlikely that Democrats are going to sign on to a Republican led initiative to repeal Obamacare. The Republican’s efforts to “repeal and replace” have failed and the GOP has given up and said it’s moving on to other issues.

It’s time for Democrats to lead the way; start the bipartisan revolution. Remember, the President says “you own it 100%.” If Republican’s won’t work with you and the health care system explodes, at least you will have tried to act responsibly and in the public interest. After all, there’s only so much you can do when Republican’s own the D.C. political system 100%.


Note: the 218 votes needed to pass legislation is based on a full House with 435 members. There are currently 5 vacant seats so the current math changes slightly to 216 votes. But going forward we must assume a full House.

P.S. I also realize that the HFC or Republican leadership could attempt to block a Democratic led solution from coming to the House Floor. But, that's where the public eduction campaign comes in.

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