House Speaker John Boehner’s cadre of Republicans campaigned last year on a promise of more openness, debate and transparency under GOP leadership.
They regularly blasted the Democrats for holding votes without enough public input. But now Boehner is planning a vote on repealing the health care reform act without holding a single hearing.
Responding to the complaint that he’s breaking a key campaign promise, Boehner has said that better ethics in Washington doesn’t necessarily mean every bill will be open to debate and amendment.
But this isn’t just any bill.
Republicans are pushing to dismantle the health care law — which extended insurance coverage to 32 million Americans — without offering any clear idea of how (or if) they would replace it.
They are also simply dismissing the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s report, which says that repealing the law would add $230 billion to the deficit.
A hearing would give the public an opportunity to hear the Republican leadership’s arguments for why the CBO accounting is wrong.
Finally, a key motive for repealing the law is that many in the GOP believe that a rule requiring individuals to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.
But if that provision is unconstitutional, why is it legal for the Federal government to require people to pay into the Social Security retirement fund?
We need to hear in detail the principles guiding this vote, and we need to know how it would affect other social safety-net programs.
We also need to hear point-blank if the Republican Party simply believes that it shouldn’t be in the social safety net business at all.
If government isn’t going to play a role in helping to cover these tens of millions of uninsured Americans, what happens to those families, and to those workers?
So far, Mr. Boehner hasn’t said.
When Democrats were pushing through the health care law, they held dozens of hearings and town hall meetings. They brought their ideas for reform home to their districts.
That’s what sparked many of those raucous town hall meetings.
It’s time now for Republicans to put their own ideas, and their own agenda, before the people.
Some conservatives might argue that last November’s landslide victory for the GOP makes this kind of process unnecessary. But couldn’t the same be said for Democratic behavior after their sweeping victories in 2008?
Who knows? Hearings might even reveal common sense reforms and changes that could be approved on a bipartisan vote that would survive a near-certain presidential veto.
We could see more of the real progress that came (to everyone’s surprise) during the lame duck session, rather than more ideological posturing.