Six Months of Senate Stalling

Image: 

On July 17, 2013, 22 Democrats joined 229 Republicans to overwhelmingly pass bipartisan legislation delaying Obamacare’s individual mandate for one year.  The mandate requires Americans to purchase expensive, government-designed insurance or pay a hefty penalty tax.  Today marks six full months that the Senate has failed to take any action on the bill.  It’s shameful.

During the six months of do-nothing Senate doing nothing, the case for delaying the mandate – always despised by the public – has only grown stronger.

Prior to the House vote, the president arbitrarily – and with no apparent statutory authority – delayed Obamacare’s employer mandate for one year, giving a break to the biggest businesses, but not for small businesses and American families.  That’s why the House bill was named the Fairness for American Families Act. Because a bipartisan majority of the House thought individuals deserved the same relief.

That was July.  In October, Healthcare.gov crashed on the launching pad, leaving millions of Americas confused and many unable to buy plans even if they tried their level best.  But the Senate refused to consider not punishing those very Americans with a penalty tax.  That’s outrageous.

Then millions of Americans who had insurance found out that Obamacare forced their policies to be canceled – contrary to the infamous “you can keep it” lie told constantly for years by President Obama and his Democratic Senate allies.  People who lost their insurance would, adding insult to injury, be hammered with the mandate tax as well.  But the Senate continued to ignore the House bill. That’s unconscionable.

Even president Obama agreed; just before Christmas, the administration issued a blanket waiver for Americans whose health plans were canceled by Obamacare.  As Washington Post liberal blogger Ezra Klein put it: “Obamacare itself is the hardship” that qualifies cancelees for a hardship exemption.

So those people still lost the plans they liked, but at least they won’t face the penalty tax this year.  But how much better is it to punish people for being uninsured who were already uninsured? It isn’t, but that is exactly what will happen as long as the Senate refuses to act.

Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in 2008 by attacking Hillary Clinton on precisely this issue, saying:  “It’s not a mandate on government to provide health insurance; it’s a mandate on individuals to purchase it… In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can’t afford it, so now they’re worse off than they were. They don’t have health insurance and they’re paying a fine. In order for you to force people to get health insurance, you’ve got to have a very harsh penalty.”

He flipped under pressure from the health insurance industry to get Obamacare passed.  But the argument he made back then is still true.  The mandate doesn’t help anybody except the big insurance companies padding their bottom line.

Today marks six full months since the House passed the Fairness for American Families Act to give all Americans relief from the mandate.  Yet Senate Democrats are so adamantly opposed to even allowing a vote on it that for weeks they have stalled action on their supposed priority of jobless benefits just to avoid a vote on delaying the mandate.

It’s wrong.  Six months is too long.  The do-nothing Senate needs to do something on the individual mandate. Now.