The new Republican-led United States House of Representatives has taken office and kicked the year off by wasting as much time as the old House did. Plans had been made for a House vote tomorrow to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform law. The vote — along with other action on legislation — has been postponed this week in light of Saturday’s attack on Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords. While this is the appropriate thing to do for the time being, the vote on this particular piece of legislation needs to be postponed indefinitely. The U.S. Senate has vowed to derail any House efforts to repeal health care reform, so this is merely a symbolic and time wasting gesture. Representatives need to compromise on legislation and do what is in the best interest of their constituents.
Last week, the 112th Congress began its work under new Republican leadership. This work began by reading the entire United States Constitution aloud. The reading came a day after the chamber approved new rules for passing legislation. The first requires bills that feature spending increases must balance these increases with spending cuts in another part of the budget. The second states that tax hikes are prohibited. The third requires the specification of which part of the Constitution validates the bill. The new Republican leadership has also scheduled a vote to repeal the health care reform bill, but the new date of this vote has yet to be determined.
Conservatives were able to take control of the House in November’s mid term elections by campaigning on a platform of change. Many representatives asserted that they wanted to change the way Congress operated and make it more efficient. But all we’ve seen so far are grand, pointless gestures. Taking the time to read aloud a document that all legislators should already be well versed in is exactly that: a grand, pointless gesture. It doesn’t accomplish anything for the voters who put these people in office. The vote to repeal health care reform, also accomplishes nothing since it has no chance of making it past the Senate. Instead of arbitrarily asserting their power over House Democrats, House Republicans should compromise and pass legislation to modify the health care law.
Repealing last year’s health care law would actually increase the budget deficit, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. It would also deprive 30 million Americans of health insurance. The law hasn’t been fully enacted and needs to be given time to work. If congressional Republicans want to address their concerns with health care reform they should do it in a way that actually has the opportunity to make positive change.
Now that they are a majority in the House, Republicans must commit to governing. If they wish to lead this country responsibly, Republicans must begin by changing House spending rules and stop wasting time with meaningless votes. After one week in office, they have shown themselves more interested in political theater than responsible governance. Republicans need to make an honest effort to keep their campaign promises to voters by making Congress more efficient and reasonably addressing serious legislative issues.