During and following times of incredible threat and trauma for our county — wars, natural disasters, mass shootings — there is a reflexive call for unity, for bipartisanship. When our people and our country are challenged we need to rally together for the common good, to overcome the destructive politics. We are living through such a time of crisis: tens of millions of people’s health care is under attack, 20 percent of our economy is being threatened. Recognizing the severity of the threat, 24 U.S. senators led by Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander unified across party lines this week to stabilize our health care markets and save the Affordable Care Act.
But after working hard to forge a bipartisan solution to the Trump Administration’s self-inflicted health care crisis, Speaker Paul Ryan immediately declared the Senators’ efforts dead on arrival in the House.
“The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.” -Paul Ryan’s press secretary told Axios
This doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, the GOP’s assault on health care was never about the policy itself. It was about the man who was behind it — Barack Obama — and about the role they believe government should play in taking care of its citizens (a small one). The days of “compassionate conservatism” are long gone, if they existed at all. (Need further proof? Nine million children are about to lose their health insurance because Congress refused to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.)
As a hopeful American I expect the pendulum will swing back towards bipartisanship one of these days, where the vast majority of the country wants and needs Washington to be. But the problem is simply too big and too urgent to wait any longer. The Commander in Tweet has declared more than once he wants to see Obamacare implode. He’s not sitting by and waiting for it to happen — it won’t — he’s actively sabotaging it (which is both immoral and illegal).
Washington is so broken right now we must look to the creative solutions being forged at the state level. We know it works. Congress hasn’t raised wages since George W. Bush was President, but last year as the result of ballot initiatives, 6 states raised the wages of 8 million people — putting $2.4 billion and counting in the pockets of America’s hardest working, lowest paid workers. It’s why a ballot proposal in Maine is starting to get so much attention both locally and nationally.
Maine Question 2 would expand Medicaid to 70,000 additional Mainers who currently don’t qualify and yet can’t afford insurance on their own. It’s a workaround to an intransigent Governor who has so far vetoed the five(!!!) expansion bills that have reached his desk and threats by Washington to undermine the program.
The ballot has bipartisan support. What’s more, it’s received national interest from health care advocates and grassroots organizations in other states looking to put similar questions before their own voters next year.
At the end of the day, all Americans want to be able to take care of themselves and their families. Self-preservation is a truly bipartisan principle. Washington has created a leadership vacuum on this issue. The states, led by smart and innovative citizens, are filling it