If you've been following the news the last couple of days you learned that Donald Trump's approval rating are already low and ticking downward and the Republican-led Senate has now officially failed to pass a replacement bill to get rid of that nasty Obamacare stuff.
Everyone's talking about how the Trump administration is a disaster and the GOP is failing or dying as a result of their inability to get anything done, despite the fact that they control Congress and the Presidency.
But wait, there is also news that a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, indicates that 52 percent of respondents, when asked what Democrats stand for, indicated that they are "just against Trump."
So, while the GOP under the leadership of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are literally failing miserably on many fronts, the Democrats have failed miserably once again to show and tell the American public what they stand for.
We've seen this movie before. See my 3/27/17, post, “Democrats Could Lead The Bipartisan Revolution.” That was when the GOP was trying to "repeal and replace" in the House. I've been advocating for months that Democrats need to step it up and take the lead and demonstrate what they stand for.
I said Democrats need to develop 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 100% of the Democrats in both chambers supporting it. Simultaneously, they need to launch a massive public education and media campaign comparing the Republican and Democratic alternatives with the focus on leading rather than simply opposing.
In politics you don't often get a second chance, but now that the GOP effort has once again failed in the Senate and the Democratic Party is suffering a self-identification crisis, the timing couldn't be better. If Democrats continue to be self-absorbed with Trump/GOP bashing, without defining a better way, they too will be a failed Party. That scenario could lead to defeat in 2018 and 2020, despite the incredible incompetency of the GOP leadership.
Not only can Democrats lead with a better alternative to health care, they can lead with a proposal to demonstrate a better process to be used in the development of major legislation.
On July 17, 2017, U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who is recovering from a procedure to remove a blood clot from above his left eye, released a statement on the best path forward on health care. McCain said,
“One of the major problems with Obamacare was that it was written on a strict party-line basis and driven through Congress without a single Republican vote. As this law continues to crumble in Arizona and states across the country, we must not repeat the original mistakes that led to Obamacare’s failure. The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation's governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care.”
While this is certainly a magnanimous cry from the wilderness of insanity on health care that we have been witness to lately, it still lacks definition of a clear process that will lead ultimately to a bipartisan solution that will reap rewards for the American people and not the special interests.
“Regular order” is the terminology for the normal way that Congress develops legislation – i.e. subcommittee with hearings and expert testimony; committees with hearings and expert testimony; floor proceedings, amendments and votes on passage. While this is far better than the secretive, backroom formulation with no public hearing or expert testimony that was instigated and maneuvered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, it is also the same process that has led to Congressional approval ratings of 20% and lower.
I have already spilled a lot of ink describing why this “regular order” process isn’t working any more in today’s highly polarized, tribal environment with an almost 50-50 divided electorate. It doesn’t matter which party is in control, the process is rigged so that the “majority” Party controls the agenda, the public hearings, testimony, input; and most importantly, the votes. Furthermore the lobbyists need only to focus their influence and money on a few select legislative members in leadership positions to control the outcome and in many cases actually write the legislation.
Despite some semblance of “order”, the process with all of its gridlock tricks along the way continues to produce one-sided solutions to major complex problems – the kind that the President never realized were so hard. See my 1/18/17 post: “”
In many previous posts I’ve tried to emphasize the importance of Congressional committees and subcommittees within the structure of our government; their relation to gridlock and dysfunction; and the idea of sharing political party power to vastly improve the functioning of the legislative and oversight roles of this critical branch of government. Previous postings include:
As I have tried to explain in previous postings, true bipartisanship, beginning with shared power in the committee and subcommittees system of the House and Senate, could completely alter the legislative process dynamics, reduce the incentive for gridlock games and political posturing, maximize and focus staff resources and blunt the affect of excessive lobbying and financial influence.
A shared power committee structure would force bipartisanship at the beginning of the process. Imagine, at the subcommittee level where Members with specific knowledge of the subject matter from both sides of aisle each present their proposals for addressing the issue. They would most likely be markedly different. They would have to argue and debate, have hearings with experts and testimony equally from both sides, utilize unbiased staff resources to investigate and develop suggestions and finally craft a compromise. The process would be somewhat like the Conference Committee process where competing differences between House and Senate bills are resolved; however, it would be much more thorough, comprehensive and nonpartisan.
So, Democratic leadership, I challenge you. You’ve got a second chance. Identify yourself. Let’s see what your health care bill looks like. And how about taking it a step farther and proposing a revised process that will lead to a true bipartisan solution. Show us you can be smart leaders with real solutions, not just Trump/GOP bashers. Give us a reason to vote for you.