Opinion

Has Congress no shame? Meek members show misguided partisanship on health care bills

“Apparently, the Senate majority leader felt that people who depend for their very lives on the existing health care system did not have a right to know how the bill might affect them,” writes former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pictured in the Capitol Thursday.
“Apparently, the Senate majority leader felt that people who depend for their very lives on the existing health care system did not have a right to know how the bill might affect them,” writes former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pictured in the Capitol Thursday. For The Washington Post

Congress should be ashamed of itself for clandestinely drafting behind closed doors a health care bill involving hundreds of billions of dollars. The imperial Congress has shown contempt for citizens on every side of the issue by cutting the public out of the process, while allowing lobbyists to participate in the division of the spoils.

This is not exactly government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as envisioned by our Founding Fathers. It more resembles the type of partisanship that George Washington warned against in his Farewell Address.

[RELATED: ‘Unshackled’ Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones undaunted by his cancer diagnosis]

First, the House rushed through a bill — later described by the president as “mean, mean, mean,” — without even knowing the number of people who would lose health care coverage. Many members of Congress did not even read it. Only afterwards did we learn that about 23 million Americans would lose coverage, while the favored few would get many billions in tax cuts.

The Senate process has been even more unseemly. The Senate bill, which affects about one-sixth of our economy and the health of many millions, did not have the benefit of even one public hearing. The bill was sprung out on June 22 with the intent of ramming it through the following week. Apparently, the Senate majority leader felt that people who depend for their very lives on the existing healthcare system did not have a right to know how the bill might affect them. His caucus meekly followed his lead out of misguided partisanship.

I grew up in a Republican Party that respected voters across the spectrum and sought and valued their input. My mentor, the late Sen. Len Jordan, would be sickened by the spectacle that has played out in the Congress on this legislation in recent weeks. Don’t we need to allow citizens, as well as the health care community, a reasonable opportunity to review and digest this legislation and then attend public hearings to advise legislators of their concerns? Or, have we reached the point where we must just shut up and let our imperial and benevolent “representatives” dictate our fate?

Jim Jones retired as Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court recently and he's making plans for the rest of his life: traveling back to Vietnam to write a book about his experiences during the war; and speaking out on issues for which he has kept

We do know that both bills will make massive cuts to Medicaid that will have significant adverse impacts on health care for children, the elderly, and the poor. As Close the Gap Idaho recently disclosed, two out of every five Idaho children receive federally subsidized health care. If federal funds are slashed, the costs will fall back on the state and Idaho hospitals, or the kids will simply have to go without care.

Neither Idaho nor the federal government provides adequate funds for mental health services and drug treatment programs and it looks like this legislation will make a bad situation much worse. Rural hospitals could be severely impacted by the funding cuts.

These are just a few of the areas of concern that should be thoroughly explored in congressional hearings to prevent significant damage to the healthcare system and those who rely upon it for their very lives. The issue is much too important, with far-ranging consequences for the health of millions, to just rush forward blindly merely to score political points.

Let our senators and congressmen know that we expect important public issues to be discussed publicly with adequate opportunity for input from those to whom they are supposed to answer — the voters.

Jim Jones retired as chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court in January.

Hear Jones at City Club Tuesday

Former Justice Jim Jones speaks at a Boise City Club lunch forum at noon Tuesday, June 27, at The Grove Hotel. Lunch registration is closed, but listen-only seats are available. For information, visit cityclubofboise.org.

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