In last week’s issue of The Sandspur, Opinions Editor Ed Leffler authored an article titled “GOP Flexes Muscles with Repeal of Obamacare.” In the article, he made a couple of statements to which a response is needed.
While referring to repeal, Leffler says: “The measure probably will not pass in the Senate due to the insubordinate nature of the Democratic Party, which is in control of the upper house.” This “insubordination” claim is baseless and misleading. The U.S. Congress is bicameral for a reason.
Simply because one house of Congress passes a bill does not mean the other house is obliged to follow suit and subordinate itself to the other house’s will. Sometimes, it cannot even when a majority of the house wants to; for evidence, one only need look back at the past four years of record filibuster usage by Senate Republicans and a multitude of measures that, while securing a majority, ultimately failed as they did not secure a super-majority.
Perhaps what Leffler meant by “insubordination” is that the Senate is not following the wishes of the general public. I base this hypothesis on his later statement that “our new and responsible officials are enacting the will of the people with these moves to counter the oppressive government that had become intent on enacting legislation to please the extreme left instead of caring about the nation’s people or the state’s sovereign rights.”
The “will of the people” is always tough to gauge, especially on complex issues such as health care reform.
Depending on the poll a person views, some show a majority opposing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the health care reform law), and some show a majority favoring the law. Other polls initially show a majority opposing the law, but after an explanation of some of its key provisions, a more favorable view of the law emerges.
Yet, I believe the most important polls are the ones which not only show what percentage of respondents support or oppose repeal of the law but which also do a breakdown as to the reason respondents gave for their support or opposition. For instance, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll from Dec. 17-19, 2010, shows 43% in favor of the law, 54% opposed, and 3% unsure. However, about a quarter of those who oppose (13% of total respondents) said they do so because it is not liberal enough. This leaves only 37% saying they oppose the law because it is too liberal (4% were unsure as to why they oppose it), which means 56% are either in favor or want it to do more.
A recent poll by ABC News/ Washington Post reports nearly identical results.
Another study, by AP-GfK from Jan. 5-10, shows that 19% of respondents want to “Leave it as is,” and 43% want to “Change it so it does more.” 10% of respondents want to “Change it so it does less,” and only 26% want to “Repeal it completely” (the remaining 2% were unsure).
A Kaiser Family Foundation/ Harvard School of Public Health poll from Jan. 4-14 asked respondents what Congress should do when it comes to the health care law. About 19% said “Keep as is” and 28% said “Expand.” Only 23% want to “Replace with GOP law,” and for some reason 20% want to keep the status quo, as they said “Repeal and not replace.” Thus, 47% want to keep or expand it, while 43% want either a Republican alternative or no replacement at all.
Moreover, The Economist reports that even if the most unpopular provision, the individual mandate, was dropped, and “if the system moves in the direction of the voter preferences [regarding favorable views of most other provisions], the result will probably move the ACA closer to something like Medicare-for-all.” Is this the result the Republican Party wants?
If not, maybe its members, and its most ardent constituents, should rethink their strategy. The various poll numbers, while not perfect, show a public that is not in favor of their plan and is, at best, split fairly evenly between support and opposition. Perhaps the GOP, and Mr. Leffler, should be more cautious in asserting that they are the ones enacting “the will of the people.”