The ACA flop & the filibuster

Contrary to what a lot of the citizenry thinks, my opinion is that a lot has happened recently in the nation’s capital.

There have been charges of incompetence against the presidency for the “disastrous” roll out of the ACA. There was a slight change in the Senate’s tradition of a minority of members filibustering the activities of the majority and the executive branch. There were also other lower decibel rumblings. All are good and well, showing that our elected representatives are doing the people’s work.

The president has accepted the miserable situation interested potential ACA enrollees have been placed in and, along with most of his supporters, believes the website and unintended problems will be fixed. This group believes in tweaking the weaknesses of the law in order to make it workable and beneficial to the majority of the country. Most conservatives and Republicans want the law tossed down the potty drain.

Let us be reminded that the ACA is a law of the United States of America which has survived challenges all the way to the Supreme Court. If this country is a country built on laws, then the ACA is one of the foundations of a country still striving for a better union.

It seems to me that much of the opprobrium thrown at the law is directed at the person(s) or party responsible for the legislative passage of the law. Let us be reminded that the law was initially a Republican idea with a similar bill signed into law by a Republican governor a few years earlier.

Some pretend that opposition to this law is opposition to the government’s intrusion into their private lives.

For starters, what do I care if the government (of the people, by the people, for the people) wants me to have a healthy life through the ACA? The same government has provided me (and others) with incentives, facilities and services that have made living in this country the envy of other peoples.

I am informed that life expectancy in some Scandinavian countries is way better than in the USA, and some experts link this to certain forms of healthcare. Some have stated that the original idea for employer-sponsored health insurance is as an incentive to attract and retain good workers. I would think that a pool of healthy, desirable workers (as envisioned by the ACA) makes, ultimately, for a healthy economy.

It is not the intent of the ACA to have reasonable, efficient coverage canceled or denied. The law has determined a certain minimum quality for all insurance plans across the board. Current plans found wanting are required, by law, to be canceled and replaced. Unfortunately, better quality plans will cost more.

Employers who have opted to stop providing health insurance for employees have reasons for this and I do not hold this against them. It seems obvious that there are economic or business reasons for this and not entirely a consequence of the Affordable Care Act.

I also know that many in the management of these businesses were not fans of Mr. Obama, leading up to the elections of 2012. How many of them flew into Logan and area airports on the night of the presidential election to celebrate with Mr. Romney? Would it be a stretch to link these corporation bosses with Senator Mitch McConnell and cronies who were determined to see Mr. Obama as a one-term president? Many of these corporation bosses have openly contributed to the election campaigns of tea-party members, the same group that shut down the federal government for days and cost the economy tens of billions of dollars. It is possible these corporations will exploit any loop-hole in the ACA to sabotage a very good intention.

The very poor roll-out must be corrected by ensuring that the website is user-friendly and efficient. I am not very worried about this being due to incompetence in the federal administration because there are continuing issues with electronic devices and gadgets that people have spent thousands of dollars to procure.

The federal government contracted out the building of the market-place website to a company or companies owned by citizens of the USA who have done a sub-par job, with or without appropriate supervision. There must be consequences, but first, the website must get up to speed.

Republicans can, and rightly, do gloat at the difficulties of the ACA. At the moment, this problem is filibuster-unrelated. But, as another writer had intimated, if the HHS head were to be let go at this time, will the president’s nominee be confirmed by the Senate?

So, while many may consider as a power grab the recent move by the Democrat majority in the Senate to modify its rules, I consider it a consequence of majority democracy.

The minority must be protected in such arrangements, but the minority must be mindful, at all times, of the needs of the majority. In the current arrangement in Congress, the minority party has, repeatedly, ignored the obvious facts from the last general elections and sought to force its will on the party in control of the other legislative body and the executive arm of the government. That is not how democracy should work.

Some commentators have focused on numbers of filibustered nominations during this presidency vis-a-vis other administrations and have made cases for or against the current situation. Others have warned of potential consequences when the shoe is on the other foot. These are all legitimate concerns, but I dare to consider such as tit-for-tat politics and puerile at best.

The filibuster is a safety net for ensuring the power and contribution of a minority in Congress. But consider what your employer and colleagues would do if, during your shift, you decided that your pay includes a substantial part of your work-day reserved for reading bedtime stories or discussion with your spouse or children or even commenting on the weather.

Let the filibuster be reserved for matters of direct and immediate relevance to the legislature or country. This must exclude attempts by anyone to settle old political scores or launch a potential campaign for higher office.

The president is the chief executive and has sufficient information to select his cabinet and members of the administration. Political labels by an opponent (with the threat of a filibuster) are not sufficient to hold up the president’s nomination, even if the position is a lifetime appointment.

There are currently two political parties in the country and any president is expected to prefer nominees for a position to hold similar or identical political, religious and moral views. Remember that the president has been vetted and accepted by a majority of the voting citizenry, thereby reposing a large degree of trust in the president’s choices and decisions.

I have always thought (and will not change this) that justice is blind to status and political affiliation. Consequently, I am amazed at the continuing reference to a justice of the Supreme Court of the USA as being conservative or liberal.

I continue to hold that the justices at any level are to impartially (i.e., blindly) uphold and interpret the laws and constitution of the country. Even though I occasionally question the demeanor of some justices and their interpretation of the law, I give such the benefit of doubt and continue to believe in them doing the right thing.

I consider it an affront for Democrats or Republicans to label a (potential) justice one way or the other and use this label to hold up a nomination.

Remember also that each potential nomination has usually gone through several vetting processes and determined to possess the minimum qualifications for the particular appointment. What does a particular senator have against the nominee that nullifies every other good aspect of the nominee? Is it part of a senator’s job description to determine which position in the executive arm or judiciary gets filled at a given time?

The citizenry must become involved in ensuring the full functioning of the ACA. It is not sufficient to accept as truth a particular politician’s interpretation of the law or its rejection because it was introduced by a political party not to one’s liking.

If there are aspects of the law that prove problematic in execution, we must work to improve these aspects. We must also hold our elected representatives accountable for the continuing legislative inactivity.

Politics is a continuing activity reflective of the hopes and aspirations of the constituencies and dependent on the supremacy of evolving ideas. There are no permanent friendships or enmities, only permanent civility and progress.

Peter Awachie, Ph.D.
Fayetteville, Ga.