Friday, March 22, 2013

About that Repeal of Obamacare

We've all heard the old joke - How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It's relative in debates today because it speaks to common sense.  

Let's take Obamacare. Barack Obama sees this as his shining bit of legacy making legislation.  He planned all along to be not so much FDR, as that ridiculous magazine cover once caricatured him, but LBJ.  Lyndon Baines Johnson was a fiercely partisan Democrat who made great hay out of appearing to work with Republicans to get huge social programs passed, which in turn guaranteed future Democrat voters.  LBJ was your daddy.  

All that said, President Barack Obama was unable to work with Republicans on most anything, especially during his first two years in office.  He didn't have to, frankly, as every chamber was controlled by comfortable Democratic majorities.  He was able to make history, not just for the largest expansion of government control of an individual's life but for ramming through that legislation with only a one party vote in favor of it.  Talk about legacy.

Enter grassroots outrage at the out of control spending used by Democrats to turn around the economy.  In 2009 organized protest took form in the Tea Party movement.  What began as logical and warranted protests of the pitfalls of huge deficits and national debt turned into a form of a third party.  It was not a real third party with candidates running on the Tea Party designation but one demanding changes within the Republican party and its candidates.  OK. The Republican party is the natural home for those promoting smaller, more efficient government.  We all get that.  The rub comes in, however, with new activists who do not truly understand the political process.  Demands of immediate gratification from anything within the federal government is a lesson some are only now finding out doesn't happen.  Ever.  

Some candidates promoted heavily by factions of the Tea Party - a movement now fractured and willingly being co-opted by large political think tanks with lots of money - have been successful in winning elections.  Some have been dismal disasters.  It's the good with the bad.  It's politics.

What was the number one campaign pledge put forth by the most conservative candidates? The repeal of Obamacare.  Great, you say.  I'm for that.  Well, that's a worthy goal but totally unrealistic with a Democratic senate, a shrinking majority in the House, and Barack Obama in the White House.  That's the reality.  Yes, the House can cut off funding but where does that go without the senate and White House?

Enter Senator Orrin Hatch.  He was a whipping boy of the Tea Party in his last bid for re-election.  He was portrayed as an old out of touch guy who needed to be replaced.  Never mind that the Tea Party didn't present a candidate capable of doing that.  Electability is an important component in political races.  He gets it, as it relates to Obamacare.  So, instead of introducing legislation to repeal Obamacare which has a snowball's chance in hell for coming up for a vote in the senate, much less passing, he introduced a bill that had bi-partisan support to do away with an important chunk of Obamacare.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday night to repeal a tax on medical-device sales, despite the fact that the levy helps finance the health-care overhaul.The vote was largely symbolic, but the 79-20 tally signals strong opposition to the 2.3% tax on device sales that went into effect Jan. 1. Even though the levy is meant to help foot the bill for the signature legislative achievement of President Barack Obama's first term, 33 Democrats as well as independent Sen. Angus King of Maine joined Republican senators in voting to repeal the tax.The vote came as an amendment to the Senate Democrats' fiscal year 2014 budget, a partisan tax-and-spending blueprint that stands no chance of passing the GOP-controlled House. Still, the solid bipartisan support shows growing momentum for repealing the tax, which lawmakers have argued hurts U.S. competitiveness and costs highly paid jobs.Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) introduced the measure earlier Thursday with the support of nine Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) said on the Senate floor Thursday that she had long opposed the tax, despite its connection to the health-care law.

So, this bill was a way to cut a big source of funding for the implementation of Obamacare, which is still the law of the land.  It is a signal of support to the medical device industry.  It beats back a new tax.  

This is an exercise in governing.  

Obamacare will not be repealed.  It is the law of the land, despite the fact that one half of Americans still do not approve of it.  We need politicians on the Republican side who know how to work around that reality.  That means more than throwing bombs at the opposition and grabbing headlines.  That means actually doing the hard stuff.

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