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Posts Tagged ‘John Boehner’

GOP on Obamacare: Divide and Conquer

December 2nd, 2013


“Remember the strategy for stopping Obamacare we laid out to you back in July,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) told the House Republican conference last week. “Targeted legislative strikes aimed at shattering the legislative coalition the president has used to force his law on the nation.”

Thirty-nine House Democrats – one in five — voted for the measure. Democratic leaders breathed a cautious sigh of relief. Earlier last week, they feared that 100 or more anxious Democrats might defect. President Barack Obama’s “fix” for the Affordable Care Act, announced on Thursday, held back what might have been a tidal wave of defections.

Republicans want the old Democratic Party back.

That was the deeply divided party that fought over everything — wars, civil rights, spending, taxes. What happened during Obama’s first two years was something of a miracle. The Democratic Party held its majority together. They governed. We experienced something that is routine in a parliamentary system but rare in the United States — party government.

Democrats held similar majorities in Congress during President Bill Clinton’s first two years, 1993-94. Back then, however, the party could not hold together to pass healthcare reform.

By the time Obama took office 15 years later, however, everything had changed. In 2010, Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act on a strictly partisan vote. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for it.

Republicans are determined to kill it. They can’t do that as long as Obama is in the White House. So their new strategy is to make the law unworkable.

That was what the House vote was all about on Friday. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called it “another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act” — something House Republicans have already voted to do 46 times.

What held Democrats together in 2010 — unlike 1994 — was indignation. The Tea Party had taken control of the GOP and driven it to extremes. The last straw came in September 2009, when Representative Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted “You lie!” at the president while he was addressing a joint session of Congress.

In politics as in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In 2010, Republican contempt produced Democratic solidarity.

If Democrats are becoming the nation’s new majority party — as last year’s election suggested they are — Republicans want them to be a divided and ineffective majority.

Last week, Republicans managed to peel off more than three dozen House Democrats. What split them off was terror. Most of those Democrats represent congressional districts where Republicans pose a real threat in next year’s midterm. They are terrified that they will have to defend Obama’s pledge that Americans who like their insurance policies will be able to keep them.

If the House bill isn’t going anywhere, where’s the threat to Obamacare coming from? From the one defection that matters: Obama himself. He, too, is threatened. Not by Republicans — Obama never has to face the voters again — but by the prospect of congressional Democrats abandoning him. That’s why he had to reverse course and offer the “fix.” It’s supposed to give Democrats political cover.

Congressional Democrats don’t seem especially happy with the president’s fix. They are trying to put together their own legislative remedy. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is proposing a bill that would allow people to keep their old health insurance plans — not for one year as Obama has proposed, but indefinitely. Several other Democratic senators have signed on, including some, like Landrieu, who face difficult re-election prospects next year.

The threat to Obamacare is clear. Allowing people to keep cut-rate, shoddy policies that do not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act will create two separate risk pools. A lot of young, healthy Americans will stay with their old, cheap policies, while older and sicker people, desperate for coverage, will enroll in Obamacare.

That will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket next year. “Cancellation today, sticker shock tomorrow,” Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chief sponsor of the House Republican bill, predicted.

Obama is trying to limit the risk by allowing people to keep their old policies for one more year. The president’s expectation is that the old plans will simply die out and everyone will end up in Obamacare. But the old plans won’t die if people are allowed to keep them or if companies are allowed to keep selling them.

Angry liberals see what’s going on — and are furious. They are furious with the president for going wobbly. And with Republicans for trying to kill Obamacare piece by piece.

Liberals “don’t want to see this law eviscerated by death by a thousand cuts,” the executive director of Civic Action told Politico. “The answer is not to undo Obamacare or to undo major provisions of it like allowing those junk plans to continue.”

But that is precisely the game plan Boehner described to his party. So far, everything is going according to plan.

This piece was originally published via Reuters.

Dear John (Boehner)

November 12th, 2013


Dear Speaker Boehner,

I know you’re having a really rough fall, and you may be sitting in your office right now, wistfully wishing the holiday recess would arrive. But the Senate has just passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would protect LGBT Americans from being fired because of who they are. And you can bring ENDA up for a vote without facing shutdown-style fallout — instead just skipping straight to the standing ovation. Here’s why:

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Who’s the Boss?

May 23rd, 2012


This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

Will Mitt Romney or the Republicans in Congress define the Republican message this year? That’s a big problem for the Romney campaign. It’s beginning to look like congressional Republicans want to put Romney in office so he can sign off on the Tea Party agenda–their agenda, not his.

“We’re not a cheerleading squad,” a freshman House Republican told The New York Times. “We’re the conductor. We’re supposed to drive the train.”

No, they’re not. The party’s presidential candidate is supposed to drive the train. He’s the leader. Congressional Republicans are supposed to be the followers. And, yes, the cheerleading squad. If Romney can’t establish pre-eminence over his own party, how can he lead the country? Or the world? Read the rest of this entry »

The Missing Crisis

July 11th, 2011


This piece was originally posted on The Huffington Post.

How exactly did compromise come to be a dirty word?

Republicans insist that any form of tax increase be taken “off the table” in negotiations with the White House. Congressional Democrats are equally insistent that entitlement programs — Social Security and Medicare — be taken “off the table,” despite President Obama’s willingness to negotiate entitlement reforms.

It’s kind of hard to negotiate a budget deal when most of the biggest items in the budget are “off the table.”

President Obama clearly has in mind some kind of triangulation strategy similar to what President Bill Clinton did when he negotiated a balanced budget deal with the Republican Congress in 1997.

But it doesn’t seem to be working. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who has been involved in bipartisan talks, wrote in The Washington Post, “We are waiting for politicians to quit drawing lines in the sand and admit that solving this gigantic problem in a time of divided government means that both sides will have to give ground.” That could be a long wait. Read the rest of this entry »

The Showdown to the Shutdown

March 7th, 2011


First, Congress has to pass a budget for the remainder of 2011. The Republican-controlled House has already passed a 2011 budget with $61 billion in spending cuts. It’s a non-starter in the Democratic Senate.

A few weeks later, Congress has to vote on whether to raise the debt limit. Or else put the full faith and credit of the United States at risk. Tea Party activists in Speaker John Boehner’s home district have already written Boehner a letter warning him that “raising the debt ceiling is in direct conflict with the platform that you and the Republicans in Congress ran on in November.”

Later this year, Congress will have to pass a budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins in October 2011. Third showdown, same issues.

It looks like a government shutdown is three times as likely as it was in 1995. What’s different about 2011? Mainly, the personalities. For one thing, John Boehner is not Newt Gingrich. For another thing, Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. Gingrich and Clinton were warriors – free-wheeling, sometimes reckless, willing to lead the troops into battle. Boehner and Obama are presenting themselves as conciliators trying to restrain the troops from drifting into war.

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GOP acts out revenge fantasy

February 22nd, 2011


This piece was originally published in Politico.

The orgy of budget cutting on the House floor last week was not about the deficit. It was about ideology.

The House Republican majority acted out a revenge fantasy against President Barack Obama and the Democrats in retaliation for what they see as the left-wing ideological aggression of the last two years. They are the counterrevolution.

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