Blog | Healthcare: It Doesn't Have To Be This Way
This Spring, Senate Republicans chose to read from the same playbook Democrats used when passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Rather than reach across the aisle, both parties took what might be called a “private” approach to legislating. Obamacare was written and passed exclusively by Senate Democrats in 2010. The repeal coming before the Senate was written exclusively by Senate Republicans.
This strategy has angered a growing list of senators from both parties who feel strongly that the bill should have been considered through “regular” order. The relevant committees should have had hearings. They should have considered multiple drafts. They should have voted in open markups. The Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, chose the closed-door approach for the same reason Democratic Leader Harry Reid chose the same strategy in 2010: it gives the majority party their best shot at enacting a bill in quick succession. But it may well be that more durable legislation would emerge if the parties worked across the aisle.
As partisan as it has become, health care is actually an issue ripe for bipartisan collaboration. The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. Millions of Americans continue to struggle with rising costs of health care. Several Democrats, including President Obama himself, have acknowledged that there are significant weaknesses within the ACA. But the Democratic Party we see today has yet to unify behind a package of fixes. Instead, many Democrats have fallen into the trap that vexes Washington so often: the temptation to define yourself simply as resistant to the other party’s agenda.
Open and public legislative proceedings can be productive and civil if parties are mutually invested in finding common ground and solving problems. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for our government today. Legislators and elected officials often oppose and reject policy crafted from across the aisle, not because they disagree on substance, but because they are steeped in hyper-partisanship exacerbated by confirmation bias. The tensions surrounding the current health care proposal exemplify the ineffective results of this dynamic, which hinders the governing process and does nothing but let down the American people.
Rather than forming coalitions of resistance and resentment, Democrats in Congress should propose new bipartisan health-care initiatives that improve the ACA and address the needs of Americans. Democrats feel left out of the process, but this does not excuse their inaction and refusal to introduce ACA reforms that so many Americans demand. When it comes to crucial nationwide policy such as the current health care bill, members of Congress should work through their disagreement, uniting in pursuit of solutions that satisfy the needs of all Americans.