Guest Opinions

Lawmakers’ ‘gamesmanship’ is not the reason voters elected them

Greg Chaney
Greg Chaney

When House leadership and President Donald Trump discovered their first attempt to revise Obamacare was a lost cause, they quickly launched an attack on Republican congressmen, including Idaho’s Raúl Labrador, who had refused to go along with House leadership’s plan because it fell short of fulfilling the GOP’s six-year promise to relieve Americans from Obamacare’s burdens.

Congressional leadership could have accepted responsibility for not listening, giving in to GOP members who repeatedly cast symbolic votes to repeal Obamacare, but lacked the courage to do it for real. Instead, they stirred up false fears among voters with claims that they’d abandon attempts to repeal Obamacare; they made overt threats that the president would campaign against their re-election; they chose gamesmanship that leveraged voters’ fears against their elected representatives. Collateral damage in the fray were the promises you’d been given by those vying to serve you in Washington.

Similar games happen in Idaho government. A ranking House member has voted for, and even sponsored, bills he was working relentlessly to kill — lining up a veto or procedural stopgap behind the scenes. He’s also twisted every arm he could to guarantee a bill’s passage only to vote against it in the end. He makes unpopular policy hiding behind popular public positions. Good policies for you and your family are secondary to protecting his public perception.

Another GOP lawmaker drafts left-leaning bills, covertly finds others to sponsor them, and either votes against his own work or takes a conveniently timed bathroom break to avoid the vote.

It takes both strength of conviction and acute political instincts to oppose games in a way that accomplishes more than proving a point; political courage should always be focused toward improving public policy, not grabbing headlines. The health care bill and the passage of the grocery tax repeal are examples of political courage that kept the policy goals in focus.

The grocery tax repeal wouldn’t have happened without many of us refusing to play games and working together publicly and behind the scenes. The irony: Political maneuvering might benefit you this time as the governor’s gamesmanship with the timing of his veto has given several of us reason to challenge its validity in court. Typically, though, political maneuvering displaces the voters as the top priority of legislative business.

In Congress, standing firm has resulted in a bill that takes a bigger step toward repealing Obamacare and temporarily suspends Planned Parenthood funding. Unfortunately, the same weak-kneed gamesmanship is evident in the recent omnibus spending bill that keeps money flowing to sanctuary cities and in the Senate’s tepid reception of the House health care bill.

Insist on federal and state representation that is unafraid to confront whomever they must to ensure promises are kept. Weigh whether a stand is being made to oppose gamesmanship, or as a game unto itself. Communicate what’s important to you. Stay informed. Legislative leadership is elected: They work for your representatives the way your representatives work for you. The ultimate boss we all answer to is you the voter.

Rep. Greg Chaney represents District 10 in the Idaho Legislature, where he serves on the Revenue and Taxation Committee that is responsible for vetting all tax bills before the House of Representatives.