Republicans Would Rather Kamikaze America Than Work With Democrats On Obamacare


The debate over the Affordable Care Act continues with no signs of letting up, and Republicans have been so eager to criticize it that they've been willing to make things up about it in their attempts to repeal one of the most historic pieces of legislation in recent history.  

But there are legitimate complaints, too, and one that has gotten a lot of attention is a glitch that could seriously harm small church insurance plans. Being a legitimate complaint, Democrats have taken it seriously and proposed a fix that would correct the problem. Bipartisan cooperation at last!

Or not. Republicans are expected to block the proposed legislation.

In case you weren't convinced already, this makes it fairly clear that our legislators are less interested in actually solving problems than they are in scoring points to win the game they call politics. What we expect is that our representatives will engage in reasoned discussion and debate, and thereby come to solutions to problems that need to be fixed. What we get are representatives who would rather leave real, known problems in place so that they will have more ammunition with which to target their opponents in the next election.

The glitch in the law is that clergy and church employees receive subsidies under the ACA, but cannot apply them to the premiums for church insurance plans, because those plans don't qualify. This could drive them to leave their current plans and instead use the ACA exchanges, which could cause the church insurance plans to not have enough participants to remain viable. Which, yeah, is an actual problem, one which Republicans have been using to claim that all of Obamacare is broken.

Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) have proposed legislation that would allow the premium subsidies to apply to church plans, provided they meet coverage requirements, and allow such plans to satisfy the coverage mandates. Which is a reasonable solution. It retains the usefulness of the ACA while not penalizing the small church insurance plans.

But fixing the ACA, even in places where both parties agree that it's broken, isn't an option that Republicans are willing to accept. They want to repeal the law, as shown by their time-and-money-wasting series of over 40 knowingly futile attempts to do so. And so they are expected to block the proposed legislation, and allow the ACA to be implemented with known flaws. Leaving in the law something that Democrats agree is a mistake is, of course, bad for the church insurance plans that will be harmed by it when it takes effect next year. But it's good for the Republicans who can use that to add "the ACA harms churches" to their rhetoric. And that rhetoric only works if the churches are in fact being harmed. In short, scoring points in the game by convincing people that you're working for their benefit is more attractive to Republicans than actually working for the benefit of those people.

Now, this isn't to say that Democrats aren't also guilty of trying to win at politics at the expense of representing their constituents. Both sides engage in the same behavior; it just happens to be more noticeable from Republicans right now because the president is a Democrat. So the criticism must in some measure be leveled at the state of our government system as a whole. But it is disheartening to see some legislators listening to criticisms and trying to address them, only to be stopped by other legislators who see harming their constituents as a political opportunity. And it's equally disheartening to know that millions of voters, in party loyalty-induced blindness, will fall for it.