There is currently a little spat going on in Washington, D.C. over the "Affordable Care Act" aka Obamacare. Apparently the Republicans and Democrats can't agree on what is more important- fixing a flawed piece of legislation or helping a child with cancer. (All right DJ, now you've really gone around the bend, who doesn't want to help kids with cancer?) The two parties also apparently can't seem to agree on whether Congress should be subjected to laws they pass or whether World War II vets should be allowed to see the WWII Memorial. This dispute would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
Let's try to simplify the debate by first recapping the history of the "Affordable Care Act" which by the way isn't the name of the law, despite the President's efforts to call it that. The official title is the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" and that's where our little recap begins.
Ted Kennedy died August 25, 2009 depriving the Democrat of their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. To avoid bringing a reconciled bill back to the Senate, where it would die in a filibuster, Democrats performed legislative jujitsu and discovered a way to prevent any possibility of a filibuster. By pretending the reconciliation was only budgetary, they brought the Senate Bill over to the House, passed it, and brought it immediately to the Senate floor for a simple up or down vote. The name of the bill came from the Senate version and couldn't be changed without subjecting it to filibuster.
I wondered why the challenges to this law never incorporated the way the law was snuck through the Senate, but it wasn't so it's fait accompli. The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the law in what can only be described as bizarre circumstances (Justice Roberts, normally one of the most conservative, siding with the four liberals to form an odd majority) but it was affirmed. Conservatives now had only legislative means to stop the implementation of the law.
In 2010 the Tea Party ran candidates in Republican primaries specifically to repeal "Obamacare". A sea change took place and the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives and picked up seats in the Senate. In 2012 the President was reelected but Republicans maintained their control of the House. Very little was made of "Obamacare" during the Presidential campaign, possibly because the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, had his own healthcare legislation from his stint as Governor of Massachusetts. Nevertheless, when the President was reelected he decided to claim the election validated the healthcare act. The fact that Republicans, who won in 2010 by campaigning against the legislation, retained their control of the House was swept under the rug.
As the law's implementation approached, Republicans tried to defund, then delay the start of the law. Eventually they hit on a fairly popular idea- forcing members of Congress to abide by the law they were forcing on the American people. The Senate, led by Harry Reid, told the House to stick their attempts to alter Obamacare where the sun doesn't shine. Funding for the federal government ran out and nonessential functions were halted. This is where it gets interesting.
First possible chink in the Dems armor: some bright person decided to close the WWII Memorial. Talk about tone deaf, the Honor Flights that have been so popular and emotional to witness were going to be denied the climactic moment of the entire trip. Talk about stupidity. The situation became worse for the Democrats when GOP legislators joined the World War II veterans in "storming the gates" of the Memorial by helping with removal of the barriers so the vets could go in and visit the monument honoring them and their fellow vets. The charges leveled at the Park Service started with the accusation that the cost of closing the Memorial was less than the cost of keeping it open. Then the accusation was made that the feds sent more people to reinforce the Memorial than were sent to help the Benghazi victims who died in Libya last year.
Next the House GOP leadership decided to individually fund certain parts of the government. They started with the Veterans Administration and Parks Department- two popular departments that have been in the news. Their first attempt failed, but they are planning to put it forward again. While this is going on, events have made their efforts look very appealing. First, the pressure from bad press on the WWII issue caused the National Park Service to announce they were going to keep the Memorial open during the shutdown. Then there was the press conference with Democratic Senate leadership.
As Harry Reid was pontificating about the evil Republicans and their terrorist activities, an innocent sounding question was asked by a CNN reporter. Dana Bash asked about the GOP attempt to fund the NIH (National Institutes of Health), "If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?" Reid responded, "Why would we do that?" This has set off a firestorm on the talk radio circuit, the cable news outlets, and the internet and may prove to be a problem for Reid and his cohorts.
Reid obviously didn't mean to sound so callous when discussing kids and cancer. However, it's almost poetic justice that this man, who referred to Mitt Romney as a criminal during the 2012 election, might be responsible for helping the tide turn against the Democrats. The party who accused Paul Ryan of wanting to "push Grandma off the cliff" among other things is now accused of hating kids with cancer. Will this lead to an agreement? Who knows? I like Jay Leno's take on this- who's afraid of the government shutdown and who's more afraid of the government starting back up?
So what happens next? I suspect the government will reopen within a week, two at most. I suspect the debt ceiling fight will be more of a bloodbath. I don't think the President's legacy will be the "Affordable Care Act" whether it succeeds or fails. This President's legacy will be his success or failure to "fundamentally transform America" as he promised during the 2008 Presidential campaign. If he succeeds, health care legislation will only be a portion. If he fails (my fervent prayer) we can begin to regroup and recover from the damage done to this country during his two terms.