After forty-some years of expert Washington watching, Norm Ornstein thought he’d seen it all. But the political scientist, American Enterprise Institute scholar and recent Moyers & Company guest writes in National Journal that the obstructionism exhibited by the GOP around all things Obamacare takes the proverbial cake. Their focus on “sabotaging the implementation of Obamacare,” he says, is “monomaniacal.”
Ornstein looks back at other controversial legislation advanced by presidents in the last decade that were ripe for obstruction by the opposing party, including President George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription drug plan. The bill, in its final form, gave Democrats many reasons to be upset — Senator Ted Kennedy worked with Bush to form a bill that both parties were happy with, then Republicans removed all of Kennedy’s provisions and passed the stripped-down version. Ornstein writes:
Almost certainly, Democrats could have tarnished one of George W. Bush’s signature achievements, causing Republicans major heartburn in the 2004 presidential and congressional elections —and in the process hurting millions of Medicare recipients and their families. Instead, Democrats worked with Republicans, and with Mark McClellan, the Bush administration official in charge of implementation, to smooth out the process and make it work—and it has been a smashing success.
Contrast that with Obamacare. For three years, Republicans in the Senate refused to confirm anybody to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the post that McClellan had held in 2003-04 — in order to damage the possibility of a smooth rollout of the health reform plan. Guerrilla efforts to cut off funding, dozens of votes to repeal, abusive comments by leaders, attempts to discourage states from participating in Medicaid expansion or crafting exchanges, threatening letters to associations that might publicize the availability of insurance on exchanges, and now a new set of threats — to have a government shutdown, or to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, unless the president agrees to stop all funding for implementation of the plan.
I remember being shocked when some congressional Democrats appeared to be rooting for the surge in troops in Iraq to fail — which would mean more casualties among Americans and Iraqis, but a huge embarrassment for Bush, and vindication of their skepticism. But of course they did not try to sabotage the surge by disrupting funding or interfering in the negotiations in Iraq with competing Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish power centers. To do so would have been close to treasonous.
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.