Our View: As health care fight lingers, nation’s work must be done

Idaho StatesmanNovember 1, 2013 

If you didn’t like what was happening in Congress in 2013, get ready for more of the same in 2014. We see no reason to believe anything is going to change until one party seizes complete power in the House, Senate and the White House.

Raul Labrador’s visit to our Editorial Board on Thursday was Exhibit A.

Explaining that he and a like-minded segment of the House Republican Caucus are in it for the long run, he reiterated that he was not elected to rubber-stamp initiatives for the Senate and the White House. Fights over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will continue.

Labrador made no apologies for his or any other Republican’s involvement in the government shutdown. He is not about to sit back and take what he perceives to be legislation that will inflict hardship on Americans.

That $24 billion cost of the shutdown? He estimates that the loss of productivity and added burden on consumers surrounding the health care law will quickly surpass that.

Though we appreciate efforts to reduce spending and government intrusion into our lives, we think the tactic to defund/delay the ACA was a bust. If Republicans had done nothing, the troubled rollout of the law would have been their best no-talking point.

We are glad Labrador agrees that Republicans took a harder hit in polls than Democrats over the shutdown. He produces good evidence the tide may turn: 10 Senate Democrats, and people such as Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, are among the new voices calling for a one-year delay on the individual mandate.

“What you’re seeing right now about Obamacare is what we were fighting about,” said Labrador. “We knew that it wasn’t ready.”

We agree with Labrador that the technological glitches will be fixed and that criticism will fade. He is betting consumers will discover the real problem: The “product” doesn’t pencil out. He cited his own health care package, which he will be getting via the Your Health Idaho exchange. “It’s going to be more expensive, have higher deductibles and provide less coverage,” he said.

We are concerned about the legacy of the 113th Congress at its midway point, but Labrador said, “You guys in the media worry too much about what’s getting done. We have too many laws already ... it’s a good thing that we pass less laws.”

A bright spot: Labrador began our meeting discussing a bipartisan bill he has co-sponsored with Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. It offers judges alternatives to mandatory sentencing guidelines that could reduce federal prison costs and allow the system to focus on more serious crimes.

We hope for similar progress on topics such as immigration and tax reform. Lawmakers should find points they agree on — such as approaches to guest worker programs and upping the ante for high-tech worker visas. Small victories and collaborative discussions in these areas could reveal pathways to bigger things.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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