Reprehensible Republican Efforts To Keep People From Obtaining Affordable Health Care Coverage

There have been countless blogs from liberals regarding the efforts of Republicans to block Obamacare and, if they can’t succeed at that, try to impair implementation of the law. This might be seen as a subcategory of Republican efforts to block economic recovery since Obama took office. The argument might be more compelling coming not from a liberal writer, but from a moderate such as Norm Ornstein. He had this to say:

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 I came to Washington in 1969-70, one of my great pleasures was meeting and getting to know Charles Goodell, the courageous Republican senator from New York who took on his own president on Vietnam and was quietly courageous on many other controversial issues. Roger Goodell is his son—although you would not know it from this craven action.)

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.

Sarah Kliff writes that the Republicans are helping Obamacare by lowering expectations. After all, even under the best of circumstances, there are going to be some problems in developing programs such as the insurance exchanges. By claiming that they will not work, the bar has now been set very low.

Steve M has a theory that this might help Democrats continue to get elected.

Jonathan Bernstein has a low opinion of Republicans and Tea Party members who are trying to sabotage the program: “It’s just monstrous to actively discourage people from getting health insurance through the exchanges.”

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