Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 4 Republican, said that on issues like health care, he hopes [Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer] "works closely with us, listens to the voices of the voters around the country and ends this really senseless obstruction."
Dec. 7, 201601:49
Let's take a minute to unwrap this, because it's one of the more jarring quotes of the year.First, listening to voters' voices isn't a bad idea, but in the most recent election cycle, voters (a) preferred Hillary Clinton by a considerable margin; (b) shrunk the Republican majorities in both chambers; and (c) keep telling pollsters that they're not on board with the GOP's repeal plans.Second, for John Barrasso to decry "senseless obstruction" without appreciating the irony is completely bonkers. The far-right Wyoming senator has been almost hysterically obstructionist when it comes to health care policy in recent years, at one point going so far as to demand that officials "stop celebrating" good news related to the ACA reform effort.But even if we look past these highly relevant details, Barrasso seems to genuinely believe Democrats should "work closely" with Republicans hellbent on tearing down the existing health care system and replacing it with some alternative no one can identify. The response from Democratic leaders, in effect, has been, "Um, no."And if Barrasso and other Republicans find that surprising, they haven't been paying close enough attention.Overcoming enormous obstacles, Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which is one of the greatest progressive policy achievements in a generation. It brought coverage to 20 million Americans; it pushed the nation's uninsured rate to its lowest point on record; it lowered prescription-drug costs for millions of seniors; it helped spur job growth throughout the health industry; and it's literally saved lives.Republicans, including Barrasso, tried to sabotage the reform law every step of the way, taking steps unseen at any point in the American tradition. They refused to compromise; they refused to work in good faith towards policy solutions; and they even shut down the government at one point as part of a bizarre anti-health-care tantrum.It's against this backdrop that Republicans, realizing that they'll need 60 votes in the Senate to make a variety of key changes, are going to Democrats and effectively saying, "How about you ignore everything you know about the last eight years and work with us on dismantling one of your party's signature accomplishments?"I know how I'd respond if I were a Senate Dem, but the phrasing that comes to mind wouldn't be appropriate for publication on a family blog.The ideal approach for Democrats seems obvious: they should assure Barrasso and his cohorts that they'll approach the GOP's reform initiative with just as much cooperation and bipartisanship that Republicans demonstrated over the last eight years.