Time for clarity on Obamacare

Michael Needham CEO, Heritage Action for America
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Last March, 34 Democrats stood on the side of the majority of Americans and opposed President Obama’s government takeover of health care. Since that vote, the case against Obamacare has not changed – indeed, it has only gotten stronger. To date, 170 Republicans have taken action to stop the implementation of Obamacare and repeal the law by signing onto Discharge Petition #11. Why haven’t any Democrats?

A discharge petition is a legislative tool which allows 218 members of Congress to force a vote on a bill that the Speaker of the House is preventing from coming to the floor. Discharge Petition #11 would allow a vote on repealing Obamacare. It’s a no-brainer for members of Congress who voted against Obamacare or for those who regret their vote in favor.

There are two explanations as to why no Democrats have signed the discharge petition. They may have genuinely changed their mind on the merits of Obamacare and now support the law. If this is the case, they owe it to their constituents to say so and explain what new information caused them to change their position.

Alternatively, they have always supported Obamacare, but publicly opposed the measure to avoid political pain. Now, they are afraid of having another health care debate as they are aware the American people overwhelmingly oppose Obamacare. This means that they are implicitly endorsing the government’s takeover of the health care industry – 1/6th of the United States economy – which they claim to oppose. This scenario is why so many Americans are cynical about Washington.

The discharge petition has started to bring clarity about where members of Congress stand on Obamacare. Rep. Steve Lynch’s Massachusetts constituents had a particularly challenging task in trying to figure out where he stands. As The Boston Globe wrote in April:

“Lynch looked like a portrait in clumsy expedience by attempting a political gainer off the health care springboard. Having voted yes on health care reform in November, he flip-flopped to oppose the main bill — and then twisted yet again to vote for the fix-it legislation seen as part of the same package.”

This past week, Lynch said that he will not sign the discharge petition because “it is not the right way to go.” According to the latest Rasmussan poll, 58 percent of Americans disagree with Rep. Lynch, but at least we know where he stands.

Now, every other member of Congress owes his or her constituents similar clarity.

Rep. Jim Marshall of Georgia said in March the president’s health care plan would exacerbate the problems in America’s health care system. “People also realize that we’re bankrupting the country over this,” Marshall said. “The next generation is going to be buried in debt.”

Marshall did the right thing in March by standing with the American people in defending future generations of Americans from the tremendous fiscal cost of Obamacare. Given his leadership, why has he been absent from the effort to repeal this intolerable act? Does he now believe the next generation of Americans is not going to be buried in debt? Marshall must sign the discharge petition.

Rep. Charlie Melancon of Louisiana also voted against Obamacare. “I cannot support a plan that raises taxes for the majority of Americans who currently have health insurance, while doing little to lower their premiums or reduce their out-of-pocket health care costs,” he said at the time.

Melancon has the opportunity to continue to fight against the higher taxes that he feared. Why isn’t he? With Obamacare repealed, members of Congress could sit down in a bipartisan fashion and come up with solutions that make sense to lower premiums and reduce out-of-pocket health care costs. Will Melancon help create an environment where these problems can be discussed by signing Discharge Petition #11 to force Pelosi to allow a vote on repeal?

“I have spoken with countless small business owners, families, medical professionals, and average citizens across Virginia’s 2nd District, and it became very clear that this bill was not the right solution for Virginia’s health care challenges,” Rep. Glenn Nye of Virginia said.

Nye should be applauded for the due diligence he did on Obamacare and his principled vote against the government takeover of health care. Will he continue to stand up for small business owners, families, medical professionals and average citizens across Virginia’s 2nd district by signing Discharge Petition #11?

It’s no surprise to most Americans that political party frequently comes above principle in Washington, DC. But health care is too important an issue to be seen through the prism of Democrats versus Republicans. Members of Congress need to listen to the vast majority of Americans and repeal Obamacare. Then, with a clean slate, we can take commonsense steps to improve health care on a bipartisan basis.

Mr. Needham is CEO of Heritage Action for America.