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It's been a rough couple of months for Congressional members from Oregon who rammed the massive health care bill down our throats. You see, the Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014 have this signature legislation that is colloquially referred to as Obamacare. The implementation of that law doesn't seem to be going well, and doesn't promise to improve any time soon. Will this impact the reelection chances of Congressmen Kurt Schrader, Peter DeFazio, Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, and Senator Jeff Merkley?
As we've seen repeatedly, the state based health care exchange known as Cover Oregon - passed with bi-partisan support in the Oregon Legislature - has made national headlines for not being quite the national model of efficiency it was intended to be.
So as a public service, here is a roundup of some recent statements by the left-wing reps and senators who traveled from Oregon to DC to vote for this disaster.
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR5)
Schrader has long presented himself as a moderate to conservative Democrat in the "Blue Dog" style, but despite what he says when he visits Oregon, his voting record in DC is in 98% lock-step with Nancy Pelosi. Here's his most recent flip-flop (or lie, depending on your perspective):
During a TV appearance in early November, Schrader called the president’s words "grossly misleading."
The fuller comment: "I think the president was grossly misleading to the American public. I knew right away as a veterinarian -- I had my own business -- that my policies got canceled even before the ACA. I know that I would change policies on a regular basis. …
"Not being honest that a lot of these policies were going to get canceled was grossly misleading."
When the interviewer pointed out that Schrader’s own website had a similar pledge, he asserted that he’d offered folks more context in person while selling the law’s other benefits.
Schrader voted in favor of the PPACA on March 21, 2010.
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR3)
Blumenauer is in a rather safe district that leans strongly left, so his reelection is relatively more safe than his other, more imperiled colleagues. Thus, he can go into full on spin and defense mode with little fear of voter rebellion. Which he does in spades in a recent column for the Huffington Post:
However, what struck me so clearly at the hearing today was the fundamental lack of understanding about the workings and benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
For example, there has been talk in recent days that some people may not be able to keep their doctor or their insurance. But the government has never had the ability to force doctors to stay with a particular insurance carrier or to prevent insurance carriers from changing the health insurance plans they offer. Because of this, there has always been high turnover -- 35 to 67 percent of enrollees in the individual market leave their plan after a year -- in part because insurance carriers often cancelled plans or individuals found their plans didn't cover all they thought it did when they tried to use it. As insurance companies adjust to comply with the Affordable Care Act, some plans may disappear, but they'll be replaced by new plans that usually offer better benefits and services.
These statements show that Blumenauer is either completely dishonest about the effects ObamaCare is having on premiums, as well as access to affordable plans and how doctors get paid through systems such as Medicaid, or he simply doesn't understand market forces. Neither option bodes well for access to affordable coverage.
Blumenauer voted in favor of the PPACA on March 21, 2010.
Peter DeFazio (D-OR4)
DeFazio is an enigma. He is in a district that would seem to favor a more conservative representative, but he's been reelected so many times that nobody can remember why he was elected in the first place. He continues to get away with a strong defense of the ACA, including at a town hall meeting just a week before Cover Oregon was to go live:
DeFazio, who voted for the bill, made it clear early in the meeting he wouldn’t debate the issue, cutting off people who wanted to make a statement rather than ask a question.
“We’re doing it. It’s happening, and it’s happening in Oregon on Oct. 1. And it’s already had a good impact,” said DeFazio, D-Springfield. “If you pay for insurance today, 10 percent of your premium goes to paying for people who are uninsured. You’re not going to have to pay that anymore.”
Unlike some states, Oregon has embraced setting up an online site for consumers to shop for insurance. The site, coveroregon.com, goes into operation Oct. 1.
As of today, two months after launch, not one person has signed up on the private exchange. Oops.
DeFazio voted in favor of the PPACA on March 21, 2010.
Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR1)
Rep. Bonamici is one of the most liberal folks in Congress, a virtual clone of Nancy Pelosi. (Interesting side note - her husband was the personal attorney for former disgraced Congressman David Wu.)
In successive press releases before the Thanksgiving Holiday, Bonamici called for administrative fixes to Obamacare to allow folks to keep their existing plan, then announced her vote along party lines against the Keep Your Health Plan Act. Her stated reason for voting no? Essentially, it's that President Obama already said he'd veto the bill, so I don't have to vote yes on it.
Bonamici was not in Congress in 2010.
As liberal as Bonamici is, she doesn't hold a candle to the most liberal member of the US Senate, Portland Democrat Jeff Merkley. Merkley has been called out repeatedly for his unwavering support of the most statist of causes, including Obamacare. Recognizing that, as recently as this summer, he had less than 50% name recognition among Oregon voters as a sitting Senator, he's begun a campaign to up his profile. He's claimed recent victories with the passage of ENDA and modified filibuster reform that reverses 200+ years of protection of the rights of the minority party in the Senate. As Portland-area radio show host Jayne Carroll says in a recent column, Merkley has a lot of explaining to do:
A second term for Merkley in a leftist state was once considered a sure thing. Then along came the political albatross known unaffectionately as Obamacare.
Because every single Democrat vote in the U.S. Senate was needed to pass Obamacare, Merkley's avid support was key. Without Merkley, Obamacare would not be the law of the land.
However, in a blatant attempt to distance himself from the potential political damage of Obamacare, Merkley decided at the last minute to co-sponsor Senate legislation that would allow the millions who had their health care insurance canceled to keep it for another year.
President Obama, also under extreme political pressure and with plummeting public approval numbers, opted to use an executive order to allow insurance companies to reinstate the canceled policies for a year. Like Merkley's legislation, Obama's last-minute grandstanding will make little difference; but Obamacare has become a political nightmare for its backers.
Unless the grave ramifications of Obamacare and the disasters with the sign-up phase are fixed soon, Obamacare could be catastrophic for Democrats. Before the 2014 elections, Sen. Merkley has some explaining to do.
Here are a few questions for our junior senator:
1) Why did you support legislation that caused 5 million Americans to lose their health plans?
2) Why did you vote for a bill that could cause another estimated 50 to 90 million Americans to lose their employer provided health coverage?
3) What did you do personally to guarantee Oregon was ready to sign up for Cover Oregon/Obamacare?
4) Did you read the entire bill before you voted and campaigned for it?
5) If you read the bill, why did you not know that so many would not be able to keep their health insurance as promised by you and President Obama?
6) If you knew what was in the bill, why did you not warn Oregonians?
7) If you didn't read the bill, how do you justify casting votes on unread legislation?
Merkley voted in favor of the original Senate bill, the PPACA, on December 24, 2009.
Indeed, these questions could be posed to all of our Democrat legislators. If asked honestly, these questions will find very uncomfortable answers among the voters.
Instead of representatives who vote in lock step with the Obama agenda, is it too much to ask that Oregon elect an independent thinker? After all, we're known as a very independent state. Our representatives should reflect that spirit.
As always, elections have consequences.