Republicans battle Republicans over Obamacare


    One big reason why Republicans love scandal-mania is because it unites them. Hating Obama is virtually the sole tie that binds. And whenever they scream “Watergate,” they deflect the public’s attention from their own intramural strife.

    In reality world, Republicans are warring with each other on many policy fronts – whether to support immigration reform, what to do about the next debt ceiling deadline – but the best example these days is Obamacare. It’s a classic Republican conundrum: Should they hew to their right-wing ideology and refuse to provide health care to millions of needy citizens who can’t afford it, or should they govern responsibly?

    Ths far, 9 Republican governors (including Chris Christie) have decided to govern responsibly. The other 21 Republican governors are either hewing to their ideology, or prevaricating.

    Under Obamacare, states can choose to expand Medicaid and thus provide health coverage to folks living below the poverty line; the feds will pick up 100 percent of the cost for the first three years, and 90 percent thereafter. It’s a great deal for the states. Traditionally, they’ve had to spend tons of money on uncompensated medical care whenever impoverished uninsured people go to the ER; but with the feds picking up virtually the whole tab for Medicaid health coverage, states’ uncompensated medical spending will plummet.

    A newly-released health study, conducted by the Rand Corp., basically concludes that the naysaying states are nuts, because they’re leaving billions of federal aid on the table, depriving millions of citizens of much-needed health coverage, and ratcheting up their own spending for uncompensated care. But, apparently, a majority of Republican governors – like Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and Rick Perry of Texas – want to play it that way.

    This is stupid politics, by the way. Hispanics are the fastest growing cohort in the electorate, a landslide majority of Hispanics support Obamacare (in part because a large percentage are uninsured)…and here’s a cinch way for Republican governors to step up and do something for voters they badly need to reach. Oh well.

    But it’s not just the Republican governors who are at odds with each other. Some of the Republican governors who have said yes to Medicaid coverage are currently at odds with their own Republican lawmakers, who insist on saying no.

    What would Reagan do?

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott said yes a few months ago – one of his strategists said, “It’s a lot easier in the abstract to be dogmatic (and say no), but it’s really hard when you’re governing” – but Florida’s Republican legislature blocked him. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is stuck with a naysaying Republican legislature, and so is Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said yes, but her Republican legislature is currently telling her no – and mocking her Medicaid stance as “Obrewercare.”

    John Kavanagh, a top Republican lawmaker in Arizona, said the other day that he and his colleagues are blocking Brewer because “for the last five years, almost every one of us Repubicans has been bashing Obamacare.” That sums up the mentality perfectly. They refuse to recognize the law of the land, refuse to help their own needy citizens, and refuse to help their own Republican governor, because they’re locked in to their old ideological rhetoric.

    Kasich, the Ohio governor, tried earlier this week to nudge his Republican legislature toward reality by writing a guest column in USA Today. He had clearly grown weary of hearing the lawmakers invoke “Reagan conservatism” as a reason for their obstruction, so he decided to set them straight. He was right to do so, because, as usual, many conservatives don’t have the faintest clue how Reagan actually governed. He was a guy who balanced ideological conviction with pragmatism – which is why he hiked taxes in 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987.

    And Kasich points out that Reagan “also expanded Medicaid, not just once but several times. For example, in 1986, President Reagan let states add poor children and pregnant women to Medicaid. And after learning that disabled children could receive Medicaid care only in hospitals and nursing homes, he let states provide them care at home also….As the debate continues, I urge those who esteem Reagan to consider the principled, big-picture perspective at the core of his decisions. When we consider what Reagan would do, let’s also remember what he did do – expand Medicaid.”

    But all too often within the Republican ranks, Reagan fantasy trumps Reagan reality.

    It’s sad that so many millions of uninsured Americans below the poverty line are fated to live in red states that hate Obamacare, or in blue states that are stuck with Republican governors like Corbett. And check out this gem from the majority leader of the Arizona House: “It’s an ideological principle (to thwart Medicaid expansion)….We don’t believe it’s the government’s duty to do that. It should be open for people to go get their health care.”

    Um. But what if people can’t afford to go get it?

    As the College Republican National Committee laments, in a new report on the heartless GOP: “We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it, but won’t offer a hand to help you get there.”


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1



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