Obama Swiftly Vetoes Reconciliation Bill Because Congress Didn’t Deliver

Twila Brase | January 8, 2016 | 2:21pm EST
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President Barack Obama prepares to veto the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Thursday in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The president is expected to veto a bill passed by U.S. House republicans repealing Obamacare’s core provisions. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Obamacare is an economic disaster but despite sending a “partial Obamacare repeal” to President Obama’s desk—a repeal that he swiftly vetoed around noon on Friday, Jan. 8—Congress made certain repeal would not happen by giving up the one thing Obama needed.

Americans are in pain from Obamacare, but the cavalry is not coming.

Congress is not clueless, but they are not committed. Despite living in a beltway bubble, they know people are losing their health insurance, choosing to go uninsured, and seeing more of their hard-earned income drained as employers shift their wages from take-home pay to insurance premiums that line the pockets of Obamacare-friendly health plans.

I’ve heard stories of grown men and women crying in the offices of their insurance agents. I’ve had people come to my office with double-digit increases asking what they should do. Newspapers herald similar stories from every corner of the nation. Even the covered feel the pain of higher deductibles, less access and fewer choices.

But their cries have gone unanswered by Congress, whose latest action was a political stunt, and the nod for the bill was a “show vote.”

Billions of dollars are being wasted, lives are being disrupted, and the tax man is penalizing the uninsured because they can’t afford Obamacare-priced premiums. And those who got taxpayer-funded subsidies aren’t home-free. For many, the IRS came the next year to take them back.

Yet Congress did what was easy and politically expedient. They caved before Christmas and then sent a partial Obamacare repeal bill to President Obama’s desk when they knew he wouldn’t sign it. It worked for them because they could tell their constituents they did the “right thing,” even though they knew Obama would veto the bill because they sent it at the wrong time.

They sent it when they had no leverage.

They sent it when the President needed nothing from them.

Even worse, they sent it after they gave the President what he wanted in two other bills—the spending bill and the tax extenders bill—without demanding repeal of the worst thing done to the American economy by a president since FDR.

So, all hoopla aside, the GOP-led Congress didn’t strategically work to repeal Obamacare, and they didn’t plan to succeed.

But they can tell the public they did something—when they really didn’t.

The vote to partially repeal Obamacare—to repeal tiny sections of the law the public knows about and leave the rest in place—was indeed a “show vote” intended to impress the American people and their respective constituencies.

Do you doubt it?

Consider how little media attention was paid to sending the bill to the President’s desk. Where were the protesters concerned that he would actually sign it? That’s right. There weren’t any. The entire event has been panned as one big political yawn. Everyone knew the GOP had no power to make the partial repeal real. The bill was dead before it ever hit the president’s desk. It was a January stunt to play the voters; a game of showmanship, not brinksmanship.

It didn’t have to be this way.

There was something President Obama badly wanted, and Republicans knew it.

The one powerful tool they could have used to repeal the entire law was the 40 percent Cadillac tax on health insurance plans. This tax, set to take effect in 2018, was the death knell of labor unions. The 40 percent tax on expensive health plans is a regressive tax. As the cost of insurance grows, the tax is expected to impact most citizens’ plans. As Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber explained, the purpose of the tax was to end employer-sponsored coverage.

Labor unions realized this would eliminate not only employer-sponsored coverage, but the labor union’s primary reason for existing. Workers wouldn’t need them anymore. Panic ensued. Liberals were put on the hot seat.

Meanwhile, the issue became real in labor union negotiations over multi-year contracts. Longshoremen on the west coast went on strike over it, making it difficult to offload and transport merchandise from our nation’s ports.

Labor is scared to death of the Cadillac tax. At least one labor union leader expressed willingness to repeal the entire law to get rid of the so-called Cadillac tax.

So what did the GOP-controlled Congress do? They took liberals off the hot seat. Rather than risk any disruption to their holiday celebrations—they must have forgotten how liberals forced a Christmas Eve vote to bring us Obamacare in the first place—they gave liberals a two-year delay of the Cadillac tax. It was a Christmas present to Obama and Congressional Democrats, giving Obamacare two more years to embed itself into the American psyche and making it more difficult to repeal the law in the out-years.

Americans of every political stripe are unhappy with Obamacare, but they have only seen the beginning of what it’s going to do. Behind the scenes, Obamacare is beginning to decimate the patient-doctor relationship, discourage brilliant minds from entering the medical profession and allow outsiders to intrude on every medical decision. Obamacare is just getting started.

Republicans in Congress never made their case to the American public, perhaps because they still haven’t read the bill, or because they’re untouched by it and too busy positioning themselves for reelection.

Perhaps Republicans think they need a replacement plan. They don’t. Once upon a time there was a land without Obamacare, and although it wasn’t perfect, more people had affordable coverage. Billions of taxpayer dollars hadn’t been siphoned away to limit insurance choices, build failed ACA exchanges and co-ops, and create agencies to impose federal treatment decisions and Medicare experimentation at the bedside. Even the newly “insured” won’t like how little care is in their Obamacare coverage.

It’s time for a new president who is actually committed to freeing the American people from Obamacare. It’s quite clear that Congress hasn’t got the stomach or the spine to do it.

(Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom is a patient-centered national health freedom organization based in St. Paul, Minn., that exists to protect health care choices, individualized patient care, and medical and genetic privacy rights. CCHF sponsors the daily, 60-second radio feature, Health Freedom Minute, which airs on approximately 350 stations nationwide. Twila Brase, R.N., has been called one of the “100 Most Powerful People in Health Care” and one of “Minnesota’s 100 Most Influential Health Care Leaders.”)

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