On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would defund the Affordable Care Act — or not pass a budget, causing a shut down of the federal government. With the end of the fiscal year coming up on Sept. 30, House Republicans are trying to gain Senate support for stopgap spending bills that would allow money to keep flowing to federal agencies past the deadline — but only if Obamacare is scraped from the budget. The partisan-fueled plan, approved by all nine of Michigan’s Republican representatives, should not receive approval from the Senate. Motivated by political gains, the only beneficiaries to this bill are Republicans seeking re-election by any means necessary this November, and they do so by keeping uninsured Americans down.
The GOP plan would attach to a continuing resolution, or a temporary federal budget, that allows the government to maintain a certain level of spending while Congress works out a permanent solution. This particular bill, proposed by Rep. Tom Graves (R–Ga.), offers a purely partisan approach to spending — one which ultimately places political ambition over good policy. After the House voted yes to the bill on Friday — split between the parties with a 230-to-189 vote — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–Va.) started naming off the House Democrats running for re-election in red states, warning them that by not voting to defund the health-care law, they risk losing their seat. This approach toward legislating suggests that these representatives are more interested in keeping their title than governing effectively.
Even Republicans in the Senate recognize the harm this political theater could bring. When asked about the possibility of shutting down the government in an attempt to end Obamacare, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R–N.H.) argued that this political ultimatum was bad politics. “Let me say that I have heard so much concern about Obamacare, and I have supported repealing it,” Ayotte said. “But I don’t think shutting down the government is productive.”
If the plan does go through and the government is indeed shut down — for the first time since 1996 — the ramifications for Michigan could be detrimental for the state’s low-income residents. Under a shutdown, only the most “essential” federal employees continue to work — without pay. The lack of employees may mean “the flow of federal money to Michigan will slow to a trickle.” The population that could be most harmed by this slowdown are those enrolled in Medicaid, receiving food stamps and others who rely on social services.
Saturday, at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, GOP strategist Karl Rove said it was time for Republicans to offer a new solution to the country’s health care problems, rather than just shutting down Obamacare ad infinitum. “We’re really good at describing what’s wrong with Obamacare,” Rove said. “But there’s one thing that we’re lousy at and we need to get better at and that is describing what we are for.” Rove is right. If Republicans truly want a shot at a successful election this November — and more importantly, offering effective healthcare to Americans — it’s time for a solid plan, not stopgap politicking.