Senators John McCain and Tom Harkin kvetched on Friday that the Senate had become too partisan; Sen. Harkin warned in hushed tones that it was “very dangerous… every bit as dangerous as the break-up of the Union before the Civil War.” Presumably they were talking about conservatives who oppose ObamaCare. Let us examine why, contrary to the kvetching of these two failed presidential candidates, ObamaCare has enjoyed more than enough bipartisan support from Republican congressional leadership.
1. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) passed a number of bills through the House that made improvements to ObamaCare that the President requested and signed. Investor’s Business Daily reported:
Obama signed House bills to kill a costly ObamaCare reporting rule, terminate its long-term care insurance program and repeal the “free choice voucher” program. He also signed bills cutting funds for the so-called CO-OP program, a public health slush fund and other ObamaCare programs.
In trying to make himself look good to Republicans, Boehner touts those bills as “reforms,” commends himself for passing them, and claims that the legislation has helped to “repeal” ObamaCare. The media and the President are happy to promote Boehner’s talking points, because it fits their narrative that Republicans are working against the President. They are able to trick conservatives into thinking they have representation, when in fact Boehner and the President are doing nothing but working to help each other keep their jobs.
2. One Senate Republican even helped Democrats to pass ObamaCare. When Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voted in favor of ObamaCare in committee in 2009, CBS lauded her as a force to be reckoned with: “When Olympia Snowe cast the lone Republican vote for the Senate Finance bill, she reaffirmed her place as a power player on Capitol Hill.”
Do any Republicans attack Sen. Snowe for working with Democrats to pass their agenda? They do not. They attack conservative Republicans who oppose their own party on ObamaCare as “frauds” and “hypocrites,” but few in Congress criticize those who vote for more government or more spending.
3. House Republicans have already compromised – with themselves – four times in the last two weeks on the Continuing Resolution to fund the government. For instance, when Republicans proposed the Continuing Resolution that would fund the government on September 20, they maintained baseline spending levels and projected spending increases that Democrats believe are necessary.
When the Senate reinserted ObamaCare and sent it back to the House, House Republicans removed defunding language and instead proposed a year-long delay and elimination of a medical device tax.
When the Senate removed those provisions and sent it back to the House, House Republicans instead proposed a year-long delay of the individual mandate, and removed special exemptions from the law given to congressional employees.
When the Senate voted to kill those proposals, the House appointed conferees to a conference committee and requested that the Senate appoint its own members to the committee to negotiate proposals. Again, the Senate voted to reject the offer.
Even without Democrats making any specific requests for compromise, Republicans compromised themselves down four times in just twelve days.
4. What’s been more bipartisan than the idea that congressional employees should be exempt from Obamacare? According to e-mails shared with the media by Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office on Tuesday, Rep. Boehner’s office worked with Democrats to try to get ObamaCare exemptions for congressional employees earlier this year. The exemption is valued at $5,000 to $12,000 annually.
In the e-mails, Boehner’s chief of staff, Mike Sommers, wrote to Reid’s chief of staff, “We can’t let it get out there that” Boehner and Reid intended to meet with Obama to ask him “to carve us out of the requirement of Obamacare.” It was going to be hard to lie, Sommers said, “because it isn’t a routine meeting, as [Nancy] Pelosi and [Mitch] McConnell won’t be there.” He wrote that he would even be ok with a story that “the President [is] hauling us down to talk about the next steps on immigration.”
Congressional staff need exemptions, the argument goes, because talented people will leave if they do not get the extra compensation. Yet judging by public records, Sommers is already salaried at about $172,000 annually. If that’s the cost to retain genius-level talent like Sommers, Americans may be facing greater problems in the Capitol than ObamaCare.
Granted, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been having a hard time getting Republican support in recent election years. Speaking after Sen. Cruz’s 21-hour speech on September 25, Reid explained that things were getting so bad, Republicans have stopped helping him with his re-election campaigns:
[Former Sen.] John Chaffee (R-RI)–If he did now what he did for me in my re-election in 1992, he’d be booted out of the Republican Party… He came to me and said Harry; I want you to get re-elected. I’m gonna help you get re-elected. We’ll do some hearings… and you can wind up conducting those hearings. That’s how we used to work together.
Maybe if Reid stopped trying to force liberals in the Republican Party to use rhetoric that matched their actions, he would get more support. Trying to bully bureaucrats into being honest or consistent is just plain mean by the standards of Congress. Yet with few exceptions, it looks like a far more bipartisan body than Sens. McCain or Harkin would care to acknowledge.