A little more than a year ago, President Barack Obama and Democrats pounded the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through Congress despite cries from the right to be more deliberative about the process, with Republicans strenuously arguing for a slow-down so we all had a full understanding of what ObamaCare might mean before it passed into law.
The 1,900 page federal legislation was proposed in October 2009, passed by the Senate that December and extensively amended before being passed by the House in March 2010. Not a single Republican supported the proposal.
At the time, the Democrats’ fast-track refuse-to-compromise approach was considered politically ruthless.
In The Washington Examiner, Mark Tapscott wrote about the “unsurpassed hypocrisy of (Speaker Nancy) Pelosi in forcing the ObamaCare bill through to passage despite its massive size, its gigantic implications for changing the daily lives of every American, and its enormous impact on the financial integrity of the government.”
He referred to Pelosi pushing the thing through as a blitzkrieg without “even a token nod” at legislative transparency because she and other Democrats refused to post the legislation online or provide House members at least 72 hours to read the amended document before calling for a vote to pass.
But, the Democrats had control of the White House and Congress, with the votes to push it through. So, they did.
In Maine, the GOP-controlled Blaine House and State House have the votes to push through LD 1333, An Act To Modify Rating Practices for Individual and Small Group Health Plans and to Encourage Value-based Purchasing of Health Care Services, which is a massive retooling of state insurance laws.
Democrats are begging for a more deliberative process, arguing for a slow-down so we all have a full understanding of what the legislation might mean before it passes into law.
The original four-page legislative document was amended to 29 pages just before the April 27 public hearing and another 10 pages were added at the April 29 work session; the House passed the measure on May 5.
The Democrats are angry, describing the Republican orchestration of the measure as an “unprecedented” ramrodding of health care law.
Sen. Joseph Brannigan, D-Portland, who has chaired the Insurance and Financial Services Committee since 1982, has been among the most vocally opposed to passage. He said he’s “never seen anything ramrodded through committee without facts, discussion and public input. We were handed more than three inches of paper, including five-year-old data from another state. We had no time to read it — never mind time to understand the impact this will have on people’s lives.”
The House has already passed the legislation, with no support from the Democrats. The same is likely to happen in the Senate and, if so, the bill will become law.
Here’s the thing about ramrods: The perspective is different depending on whether you’re ramming home the charge or standing on the receiving end of the explosion.
The power is always on the side of the one pushing the rod.
And, in the case of adopting federal and state laws, the power is on the side that holds the votes.
Congressional Democrats pushed ObamaCare into law with hardly a glance at the final version of the bill, and Maine Republicans are now pushing through a health insurance bill here using nearly the same tactics.
It is, for better or worse, our political process and if we don’t like the process we each have the power of our own votes on Election Day to force change.
It does make a person wonder, though, if a party-line power struggle is truly the best way to reform health care in this country.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.