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Affordable Care Act / Obamacare

I have on occasion engaged in conversations with friends regarding the idea of history repeating itself.  I know very intelligent people who say that history never repeats itself.  However, I’ve always felt that we learn from our past and while situations certainly are never exactly the same, human reactions have not changed very much over time and how we choose to handle the present tends not to be so different from what has been done in the past; consequently, the same or similar mistakes are made and in that way, history repeats itself.

Case in point:  Given what is happening in Congress with regard to the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” reminds me of my younger, very activist years, when I was still a student and very much engaged with others in the politics of trying to bring about racial integration.

Thinking that far back, it’s difficult to remember all of the details, but reflecting on what was happening in Congress at that point is certainly reminiscent of what is happening today.  However, at that time, it was the Southern democrats, the extremists of their generation, who chose to be obstructionist, and in an event that could have happened – and you might think did happen – just recently, then Senator Strom Thermond of North Carolina, a man strongly opposed to the Civil Rights legislation of 1964 and 1965, engaged in a filibuster that lasted 24 hours and 18 minutes.  Senator Thurmond always proclaimed that he was not a racist but was against something he called “excessive federal authority.”

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, in opposition to the Affordable Healthcare Act, began what is technically not a filibuster, although it certainly feels like a filisbuster.   He started speaking at 2:41 a.m. and continued for 15 hours, ending his marathon at 4:41 a.m. on Wednesday.   He did have several breaks, however, when other like-minded senators, including Rand Paul and Marco Rubio stood up to make comments.  Marco Rubio, I am sad to say, represents my new home state of Florida.

Senator Thurmond’s filibuster didn’t work in the 1960’s and Senator Cruz’s faux filibuster didn’t work in 2013.

Going back to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s, it was minority leader Everett Dirksen, a Republican from Illinois, always eloquent, who proclaimed the words of Victor Hugo, “Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come.”  He continued, “The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing in government, in education and in employment.  It will not be stayed or denied, it is here.”

Healthcare should be a right granted to all citizens, not just those who can afford to buy insurance, and I know from personal experience that that has not been the case as of today.  I would suggest that Senator Cruz and his fellow obstructionists start listening to one of their elder statesmen, John McCain, who, not unlike Senator Dirksen, also spoke eloquently when he said:  “The people spoke,” McCain said. “They spoke, much to my dismay, but they spoke and they reelected the president of the United States. Now that doesn’t mean that we give up our efforts to try to replace and repair Obamacare, but it does mean that elections have consequences and those elections were clear [in that] a significant majority of the American people supported the president of the United States and renewed his stewardship of this country.”

If ever there was an idea whose time has come, it is “Affordable HealthCare.”  "Replace" or "Repair" does not mean eliminate, regardless of what Senator Cruz and the other obstructionists in Congress might think.  The people have spoken through their vote -- and, Senator Rubio, as a resident of Florida I can now vote for you ... or not!

Sandy Tankoos, President,

                                                          * * *


The following article is from NBC News:

Senate votes to send government funding bill back to House

By Michael O'Brien, Political Reporter

The fate of a possible government shutdown now rests with the House of Representatives after the Senate voted Friday to send the GOP-dominated chamber a simple extension of government spending through mid-November.

After a week of bluster in the upper chamber which saw conservatives try to demand that spending for "Obamacare" be eradicated as a condition of avoiding a government shutdown, senators voted on a bipartisan basis to reject that ploy, and bring debate to a close.

The end result was that Democrats in the Senate were able to strip a provision to defund Obamacare from legislation to fund the government, which was passed a week earlier by the Republican-controlled House.

"Over the next three days, House Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open -- or shut it down because they get their way on an issue that has nothing to do with the deficit," President Barack Obama said Friday afternoon at the White House. "Even the threat of a shutdown is already probably having a dampening effect on our economy -- we saw that last time these kinds of shenanigans were happening up on Capitol Hill."

The debate now returns to the more politically fractious House, where the path toward reaching an agreement before the end of Monday -- when the government runs out of money to fund its day-to-day operations -- is anything but clear.

An aide to Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the president's remarks "grandstanding" and said the House "will take action that reflects the fundamental fact that Americans don't want a government shutdown and they don't want the train wreck that is Obamacare."

As the Senate concluded the debate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged his Republican colleagues in the House: "Defy the anarchists, respect the rule of law, and help the Senate govern."

The Senate voted 54 to 44 along party lines to ultimately approve a "clean" continuing resoltion, which does nothing more than to preserve funding at existing levels through Nov. 15.

Conservatives, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, had spent the week doggedly opposing this action. Cruz argued that any vote to support a clean stopgap spending measure was tantamount to a vote in support of Obamacare, putting many of his Republican colleagues in a politically difficult spot.

The Senate's vote now returns the spending debate to the House, where Boehner faces quite the bind.

With the clock winding down to a government shutdown, Boehner must figure out a path forward to fund the government, or risk a shutdown that could backfire politically against Republicans. And he has until midnight on Monday to do so.

The Republican speaker could bring up the legislation he's expected to receive from the Senate later Friday, known as a "clean" continuing resolution, because it preserves spending at existing levels through Nov. 15 without making any additional modifications to existing law. Boehner would have to rely heavily on Democrats, though, along with a handful of Republicans. This scenario would also mostly represent a political victory for President Barack Obama.

But Boehner already said Thursday that he could not envision House Republicans accepting such legislation, and would likely attach new provisions to the spending measure before sending it back to the Senate.

That means that Republicans, who will keep the House at work throughout the weekend, must work to craft their counter-offer to the Senate. Because Boehner will likely have to rely on Republican votes alone, that could mean GOP leaders will craft their new proposal in such a way that it will mollify House conservatives, who have been all too willing in the past to jilt Boehner on spending legislation.

The latter scenario would only heighten odds of a government shutdown.

The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, is extremely unlikely to accept any legislation to continue funding the government if it is larded with conservative initiatives. The debate this week in the Senate -- which saw the chamber move slowly, but inevitably, to strip the defund-Obamacare provision from the House spending bill -- demonstrated that in vivid detail.

Indeed, Cruz expressed openly his hopes that Republicans would return new legislation to the Senate, where the fight would begin anew -- likely with an even shorter window of time before a shutdown.

"I remain confident -- hopeful and optimistic -- the House will stand their ground," Cruz said before the Senate votes, "which means this issue is coming back to the Senate."

Boehner has not formally signaled how he and Republican leaders in the House will proceed, preferring to preserve as many options as possible heading into political crunch time. House Republicans will meet on Saturday at noon to figure out their path forward.

The fact that House Republicans don't have their alternative at the ready means that the GOP could spend precious hours crafting their counter-offer and figuring out whether they even have the votes to send a new iteration back to their Senate colleagues.

Even after the budget issue is resolved, Congress faces the more vexing problem of how to raise the nation's debt limit. Many Republicans have turned to that battle, which must be resolved by Oct. 17, as a possible fallback deadline at which they could win concessions from Obama.

"Some Republicans have suggested that unless I agree to an even longer list of demands ... that they would push the button, throw America into default for the first time in history and risk throwing us back into a recession," Obama said. "I don't know how I can be more clear about this: nobody gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States just to extract political concessions."


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