The GOP shows its hypocrisy
March 1, 2017
Filed under Opinions
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Congressional Republicans have not been having the best times with their constituents the last few weeks. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell organized a town hall meeting and was verbally eviscerated by voters afraid of losing their health insurance. Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa, described his first town hall of the year as, “a raucous, sweaty tumult of cheering and jeering, interruptions and shouted questions.” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton held a similar event last Wednesday. One woman, facing the reality that she, her husband and her friends might lose their insurance, stood up and confronted Cotton.
“You want to stand there with him at home, expect us to be calm, cool and collected? Well what kind of insurance do you have?” she asked, with an emphasis on the “you.” The crowd roared for several moments and she continued, explaining just how little she pays for health insurance now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, passionately denigrated as “Obamacare.”
“If you can get us better coverage than this, go for it. Can you beat that? Can you?” The reality is that it’s unlikely congressional Republicans will organize in the next few months and produce a meaningful and coherent replacement for the Affor-dable Care Act.
Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican congressman and Speaker of the House, has been harping and regurgitating a set of talking points for a few weeks now. These talking points — taken from a Republican booklet handed out before the most recent congressional recess — include refundable tax credits, health savings accounts and block grants.
Refundable tax credits — which would supposedly be based on age rather than income — would give more tax credits to billionaire Warren Buffet than an average college student. Health savings accounts, according to healthcare analyst Wendell Potter, “are great tax shelters for the well to do, but most Americans simply don’t have the extra cash to put into such an account.” Block grants, a proposal to send states a fixed amount of funding for Medicaid, also have problems as they would fail to accommodate for rising healthcare costs.
Perhaps congressional Republicans should take a cue from and listen to John Boehner, the former Speaker of House noted for his politicking skills, when he said repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act “is not going to happen” at a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Florida. Or perhaps they could listen to President Donald Trump when he said, on Monday, that healthcare policy is an “unbelievably complex subject” to a gathering of state governors at the White House. It’s in Republicans’ best interests to accept that, overall, the Affordable Care Act is working, albeit with both major and minor hiccups, like keeping a current doctor and rising premiums.
And while I commend McConnell, Grassley, Cotton and other GOP members of congress for facing their constituents and letting them voice their concerns, I must also commend lawmakers like Louie Gohmert, of Texas, for demonstrating some of the most bafflingly absurd mental gymnastics-like reasoning for not facing constituents in town halls.
“There are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety. Threats are nothing new to me, and I have gotten my share as a felony judge,” Gohmert told constituents in a letter last Tuesday. “However, the House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed.”
Gohmert is correct about one thing. Gabby Giffords, an Arizona Democrat and former congresswoman, was the subject of an assassination attempt near Tucson just one week into her third term. She sustained serious injuries, including a shot to the head. Incredibly, she recovered, and, being the brave public service she is, continued to face crowds. He’s not correct about people being paid to disrupt his or anyone else’s town hall. Politifact reports that there is no evidence of this happening anywhere in the country.
Gohmert is shamelessly and hypocritically using a victim of gun violence and the fear of guns themselves as an excuse to not face his own constituents, even though he is in staunch favor of gun rights and, according to Texas Monthly, has the highest rating of approval from The National Rifle Association.
Republicans who fear their constituents may have firearms can take solace in a recent ruling — issued by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond — that both reinforced the banning of 45 different kinds of military-style assault weapons and limited the size of their magazines. The reasonable ruling limits the absurdity of the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, which determined that citizens have the right to own handguns for defense.
The week’s events have shown the nexus of healthcare debates, Republican hypocrisy and gun control. While Republicans fear their own constituents, progressives like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are embracing them. In a recent interview on CNN, Sanders explained Republicans’ predicament quite candidly yet eloquently: “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”