Yesterday, Byron York had an interesting piece over at the Washington Examiner entitled “Republicans deserve blame for Democratic excesses.” In it, he makes the somewhat obvious but important-to-be-said point that Republicans made their own bed. Had Republicans not been so terrible in so many ways during their reign, and in particular, toward its end, then they might have saved a seat or two in the Senate – and therefore would not have handed Democrats a filibuster-proof governing coalition with which to inflict so much damage on America.
It is hard to argue with that, but, is that the whole story?
Not in the slightest. It would have been arguably worse, in the long term, had Republicans maintained, say, 42 or 43 seats in the Senate.
Say what, Hogan? Yep – that’s right. Now, bear with me here, because I realize this does not seem logical at first blush, but I think this is critically important both with respect to how we got into this mess and how we get out of it.
Byron’s main point can be summarized when he said this with respect to the close races in 2008: “If any one of those races had turned out differently, there would be one more Republican in the Senate, and we might not be facing a far-reaching, coercive and cripplingly expensive makeover of the nation's health care system.”
Yes, we may well have stopped THIS precise version of Obamacare if we had Stevens, Coleman, Specter, Smith or whomever on our side. But then what would have happened? What would be the logical next step for any of those four, or Olympia Snowe, or Susan Collins, or Bob Bennett, or Lamar Alexander, or Lindsey Graham, or Judd Gregg, for example?
You needn’t look far for the answer.
Take, for example, the significant past Republican support for the following three massive federal healthcare proposals.
1. S-CHIP. The S-CHIP program is a Clinton-era program passed (with significant Republican support) in 1997 to provide health insurance to uninsured children whose parents earned too much for Medicaid but were below 200% of the poverty level. In 2007, with some Republican support, Democrats tried to expand S-CHIP massively (a goal of liberals to increase federal “insurance” coverage as a step toward universal coverage) to include children up to 400% of the poverty level, among many other problems. To wit: Republican Senators Bond, Coleman, Collins, Corker, Domenici, Grassley, Hatch, Hutchison, Lugar, Roberts, Smith, Snowe, Specter, Stevens, Sununu and Warner each supported this expansion in a 67-29-4 vote. President Bush vetoed it, but Senator Obama signed the expansion into law earlier this year after it passed 66-32-1, again with the support of Republican Senators Alexander, Collins, Corker, Hutchison, Lugar, Martinez, Murkowski, Snowe and Specter, despite staring universal healthcare in the face.
2. Wyden-Bennett Healthcare Proposal: Republican Senator Bob Bennett teamed with Democrat Ron Wyden to author a healthcare reform bill that includes an individual mandate, government-run exchanges, price and coverage mandates, and other nefarious proposals. That bill is co-sponsored by Senators Alexander, Crapo, Graham, and Gregg (and was co-sponsored by Senators Lott and Coleman in the past). The bill has been repeatedly criticized, probably most notably by Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review in April 2008, when he called it “stealth reform” that conservatives should not support. And more, as Erick noted, these Senators actually voted FOR an amendment just last week that declared the individual mandate unconstitutional, despite having co-sponsored a bill containing an individual mandate.
3. Medicare Part D. While some Republicans continue to defend Medicare Part D, the reality is that like virtually every government program ever created, the cost of the program has far exceeded all initial estimates. And, of course, piling the higher costs of Medicare Part D on top of the looming bankruptcy of Medicare generally only compounds the problem – yet, Republicans not only jumped aboard, but actually engineered that train. The bill passed 54-44, driven not exclusively but primarily by Republicans.
There are countless other examples of Republicans teaming with Democrats to promote massive expansions of the national government – both with respect to healthcare and otherwise. That the size of the expansion is not as repulsive as is the current Obamacare proposal does not make it any less harmful when taken in the aggregate.
Anyone who has seen the belly of the Senate Republican beast on the inside knows all too well that they have been willing to cut a “less bad” deal any day of the week, and Sunday too. And they have done it over, and over, and over again.
So, while yes Byron, you are absolutely correct that this version of Obamacare would not pass, they would have passed something – expanded S-CHIP, a variation of Wyden-Bennett, an expansion of Medicare or anything that they could reasonably suggest “does something” (because Lord knows, Republicans must be FOR something – no matter what it is).
In so doing, Republicans would own – piece by piece, fully and without any ability to say otherwise – the continued nationalization of healthcare. And, therefore, the line in the sand would continue to be an indistinguishable blur – leaving voters without a clear sense of the difference between the parties.
Instead – we now have our line in the sand. We know who owns this one. And more importantly, perhaps, we now have a clear mission.
Republicans must stand united against all forms of government-run healthcare, and must start by stopping Obamacare – sooner, by way of creating as much havoc in the House and Senate as possible before passage - or, later, by way of repeal.