As they’ve done throughout their history as a minority party, the Republican strategy for the 2008 elections is to block Congress from getting anything done, and blame it on the Democrats. They’re now obstructing more than 20 major appropriations and policy bills through threatened filibusters and vetoes. Yesterday, the leaders of the Grand Obstruction Party announced their latest obstruction target, a much needed expansion of the popular and effective State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
There are millions of children who receive little or no health care and are too poor to get insurance. SCHIP was originally conceived to provide coverage for children of families who are not eligible for Medicaid but still too poor to purchase private health insurance. It provides health coverage through a pooled, subsidized fund to pay for health care for children in families below a certain income threshold. By raising the threshold, and including other family members, millions more who are currently without care or insurance can receive care. The increased funding — $35 billion in the Senate version; $50 billion in the House — would be provided by taxes, in this case, higher cigarette taxes, and reductions in subsidies for private health insurance. But the main idea is to increase access to the pooled funding mechanism.
Despite bipartisan support in both houses for significant expansion of SCHIP, the Republican leadership has decided to block any major expansion and to support President Bush’s threatened veto [h/t Jane]. And why are they against expanding a successful children’s health program, especially when solving the problem of uninsured/uncovered Americans is high on the public’s wish list? The answers reveal today’s Republicans at their hypocritical worst.
Partly it’s because this is the opening skirmish in the looming battle over the structure of health care reform. You see, if access to SCHIP’s pooled funding mechanism is expanded, so that more Americans can choose it, then Republicans fear Americans who have a choice between the tax-funded pool and private insurance plans that are more expensive (unless subsidized) will choose the tax-funded pool approach — just like a single payer system. That solution costs less, but the private insurers lose business. So the Republican game is to preclude as many people as they can from having this choice by limiting access to the pooled approach, and then pushing people into private insurance plans through direct subsidies, tax credit incentives or simply denying Americans any other choice.
We’ve already heard the President, who claims anyone can get universal health care just by showing up at an emergency room, attack the SCHIP expansion as favoring a “government run” program. McConnell and Boehner are now labeling the concept as “Hillary Care,” echoing the completely stupid claims by Mitt Romney that Senator Clinton’s approach (which she hasn’t announced) is essentially Marxist. It’s the beginning of the debate over “socialized medicine,” just as Moore’s SiCKO predicted.
Mitch McConnell also knows that by using the 60-vote rule to block every significant legislative action in the Senate, the Republicans may be able to drag the Democrats down to the low approval ratings the Republicans earned over the past six years. Creating the false impression that the Democrats are unable to govern, while concealing that the reason is the Republicans’ cynical obstruction tactics, is a pitiful platform to run on, but apparently it’s all the Republicans have left.
And if you’re too young to remember the red-scare tactics of the communists-under-the-bed era, just watch Mitt and Rudy, Fred and George. The Republicans will replay that history because they think Americans are dumb enough to fall for it again, and they don’t care if it’s America’s children who pay the price.
Photo: Melina Mara, Washington Post, on Boehner’s election as House GOP leader: “We must act swiftly to restore the trust between Congress and the American people,” said Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio).