Both Sides Don’t Do It

As Republicans are called out on their attempts to rush through their Obamacare repeal bill, a lot of conservatives are falling back on an old lie about how Democrats “rammed Obamacare down our throats.” The comparisons are absurd in light of the excruciatingly long chronology of health care reform that occurred in 2009/10.

This morning, the folks at NBC’s First Read reject the typical both-siderism to write, “What the GOP Could Have Learned from Obamacare.” Here’s their list of what Trump and the Republicans could have learned:

  1. Get industry and major stakeholders to support the legislation
  2. Go slow
  3. At least reach out to the political opposition
  4. Unite the party around the central tenets of the legislation
  5. Have supermajority support — or close to it

Of course most of those would have required Republicans to be honest about their goals and intentions – which is obviously not the case. But I’d like to unpack #3 a little bit because it is something that seems to have been lost from our political memory. Here’s what the people at First Read wrote about that:

The Obama White House actively courted Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), as well as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Indeed, Snowe voted for the Senate Obamacare proposal in committee in October 2009 — although she backed away in the votes for final passage. This time around? The Trump White House and congressional GOP leaders haven’t made at least the appearance of this kind of effort.

While true, that actually minimizes what happened quite a bit. Here are some additional items we could add:

  • June 2009 – Obama participates in a town hall meeting on health care reform that is broadcast nationally and hosted by ABC News
  • Summer 2009 – Obama participates in town hall meetings on health care reform all across the country
  • February 2010 – Obama hosts a televised health care summit with Congressional leaders

At all of these events the president took questions from industry experts, elected representatives and regular Americans about the Democratic plan for health care reform. Some were quite critical, but were treated respectfully and answered thoroughly with facts and data.

Need I point out that this is not what anyone expects to happen with the Republican plan? While we continue to hear stories about how the White House vows a “full-court press” for passage of this bill, there is never any mention of meetings with Democrats or televised sessions where people can ask tough questions. The truth is, that would be a disaster for Republicans.

The party that depends on pragmatism, facts and data can withstand scrutiny of their ideas/plans/proposals – even if it doesn’t lead to some kind of bipartisan nirvana. That’s why, when it comes to rushing a bill through Congress before it is thoroughly vetted, both sides don’t do it.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.