Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Scare tactics on Obamacare


OUR OPINION: Ted Cruz and other tea party conservatives in the U.S. Senate toy with obstruction at the nation’s peril

It wasn’t the longest speech on the Senate floor, and not quite a filibuster, but Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made his points during his talkathon about the Affordable Care Act: Socialism! A jobs killer! Americans don’t want it! A red herring to impose a single-payer system!

By noon Wednesday, after 21 hours and 19 minutes on his feet, and assisted once in a while by Florida’s junior Sen. Marco Rubio and other tea party conservatives, Sen. Cruz sat down.

Then he voted, along with Sen. Rubio, for the procedural measure to have Congress vote on a spending bill that would raise the debt ceiling.

Sen. Cruz, a freshman who, like Mr. Rubio, has his eye on the White House for 2016, wants to “defund Obamacare” or hold the budget hostage and spark an unpopular government shutdown.

Many Republican senators who were around during the Clinton-Gingrich budget battles of the 1990s know better. As Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, noted: “I just don’t believe anybody benefits from shutting the government down, and certainly Republicans don’t. We learned that in 1995.”

Sure, Mr. Cruz’s political act was entertaining. There was a reading of Green Eggs and Ham, directed at his young daughters who watched on TV before they went to bed. There was even a Star Wars impersonation and a reference to the Duck Dynasty reality TV show. All that was missing during the marathon in which Mr. Cruz was not allowed to go to the bathroom was a commercial for adult diapers.

Laughs aside, the threat of this latest tactic against the president’s healthcare law remains if the Senate can’t reach agreement by midnight Monday on the spending plan and debt ceiling.

Here’s the reality check: Obamacare passed muster in the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. It is not a socialist plot — just ask insurance companies that will be selling policies. It is not a jobs killer — just ask hospitals and healthcare professionals who are poised to hire more workers as insurance options expand this year for millions of Americans. And it won’t usher in a single-payer system like those in European countries because Americans don’t want that.

Is the law perfect? Hardly. There are many untested factors.

No program of this size can be perfect. Certainly Medicare, healthcare coverage for retirees who paid into the system through their paychecks for decades, has had to be tweaked over the years since its inception. Are Republicans willing to repeal Medicare?

It’s not just tactics in Washington that play havoc with the U.S. economy and American lives. Republican obstruction in Tallahassee only makes it harder to implement the healthcare law and save money. Incredibly, legislators continue to refuse to expand the Medicaid portion of the law to 1 million poor, uninsured Floridians, which would help save money. Instead, the uninsured poor will keep using costly hospital emergency-room care.

Such obstruction against Medicaid goes against the advice of conservative business groups like Associated Industries. So what’s the point of these tactics? If it’s short-term political gain, that’s an iffy proposition. Republicans have yet to offer a viable alternative.

All the misinformation that’s being created by those who oppose Obamacare does not help the economy — it raises unsubstantiated fears and delays the economic recovery. Instead of stubbornly fighting the law of the land, conservatives should start working on how to improve it.

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