On Wednesday, not one of Pennsylvania’s so-called “conservative” Blue Dog Democrats voted to repeal Obamacare. U.S. Representatives Jason Altmire (PA 4), Mark Critz (PA 12) and Tim Holden (PA 17) all voted to keep Obamacare securely in place. This vote was notable since both Altmire and Holden had sought to distance themselves last year from their party by highlighting their refusal to vote for passage of Obamacare, campaigning as opponents of the law. Unfortunately, they refused to stand for its repeal when given the chance.
Both men offered similar excuses for not supporting a full repeal. Representative Altmire in an article posted on the TibLive website stated: “But it has been enacted, and I would not support a blanket repeal because it’s, first of all, politically impossible. … From that side alone, it’s a waste of time and taxpayer money.” For someone who purports to be concerned about taxpayer money it seems odd that he wouldn’t support the repeal of a law which is expected to cost taxpayers $115 billion in implementation costs alone and $2.6 trillion overall. On the other hand, Representative Holden told the Republican and Herald that the repeal effort was “political theater” and a “waste of time”.
Impossible? Waste of time? It is a fact that Congress has repealed unpopular laws before, such as when the Medicare Catastrophic legislation was repealed in 1989 after only one year and a mutiny by disaffected seniors. And, the only reason that this important debate over repeal resembles political theater is because members like Altmire and Holden, who claim to oppose the law, have made its repeal a partisan issue.
These men evidently lack the fortitude to say what they really mean. They are unwilling to go against the President and their own party to give voice to their constituents’ desire to see this unabashed expansion of government fully repealed and a fresh start made to reform healthcare (and not just in name only). While they would have their constituents believe they are independent of their party leadership, this vote clearly illustrated how short a leash these Blue Dogs are given.
The next false choice that Rep. Holden offered is that all of the “good” benefits that his constituents enjoy would immediately go away. Holden specifically mentions the poll-tested and much-hyped mandate that requires insurance companies to cover individuals with preexisting conditions. Despite the mandate’s apparent popularity, even the left admits that this policy drives up the cost of healthcare for everyone, absent a companion mandate for everyone to purchase health insurance (because otherwise people refuse to purchase healthcare until they’re sick). In other words, you cannot be for the mandate to cover preexisting conditions without being for the unpopular individual mandate to purchase health insurance, which Holden claims to oppose. Instead, conservatives have attempted to address the healthcare needs of individuals with preexisting conditions by setting up high-risk pools at the state level. However, this is a great example of why even the politically popular provisions of Obamacare cannot survive scrutiny and why the entire law needs to be scrapped, allowing Congress to start over with legislation to lower the cost of healthcare.
Obamacare represents one of the largest expansions of government authority in over a generation. It’s unfortunate that Jason Altmire and Tim Holden would not stand behind their principles, which they cited when they initially voted against passage of the legislation last March and during their election campaigns. Rep. Altmire when asked about voting against the legislation noted “it would be an even bigger mistake to pass legislation that could compound the problem of skyrocketing health care costs.” On the other hand Rep. Holden stated directly that the legislation “was not in the interest of my constituency.” Both men claimed to recognize the flaws with this legislation then. Yet, when presented with the opportunity to undo the damage their party had done they clearly lacked the courage to back up their convictions.