Column: Just Agree to Agree

In February 2007, in a Democrat-controlled Congress, 10 senators—half Republican and half Democrat—sent the then-President Bush a letter on the urgent issue of health care. It read in part:

“We would like to work with you and your Administration to pass legislation in this Congress that would:

1) Ensure that all Americans would have affordable, quality, private health coverage, while protecting current government programs. We believe the health care system cannot be fixed without providing solutions for everyone. Otherwise, the costs of those without insurance will continue to be shifted to those who do have coverage.”

Basically, they wanted to engage with the executive branch on legislation which would use private health insurance to ensure universal coverage while preserving Medicare. The Republicans who signed the letter were Jim DeMint (SD) Robert Bennett (UT), Trent Lott (MS), Mike Crapo (ID), and John Thune (SD). These Republicans were for what they would later call Obamacare…and of course now they’re against Obamacare. Why? Because they disagree. On things. You know…the stuff no one can quite put their finger on but it’s enough to try with all their might and bluster to repeal it anyway. Big super huge differences in opinion, you see.

Saying they want universal coverage with mostly private insurance along with Medicare but not Obamacare is like saying they want highways maintained by a federal agency with the initials D.O.T.—but not by the Department of Transportation. And if they can’t take any follow-up questions as to what they DO want or what they would do instead…well maybe the dirty secret in D.C. is that they don’t disagree, they’re just disagreeable.

This week, it was reported the first case of Ebola was found in the state with the highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation. Around 5 million Texans don’t have health insurance and I only bring it up because there’s a symptomatic deadly international pathogen meandering around Dallas at the same time Rick Perry is refusing federal money to cover the masses. Ebola is scary but so is the thought of your financial wellbeing crushed by an ER visit for a stomachache. It’s a bad combination. But I’m sure Perry’s sole health care solution of tort reform is a comfort to his at-risk constituents.

Speaking of go-nowhere ideas, Speaker of the House John Boehner cautioned about the terrorist group ISIS on ABC’s This Week, “We have no choice. These are barbarians. They intend to kill us. And if we don’t destroy them first, we’re gonna pay the price.” That seems pretty dire. Kind of important. So shouldn’t Congress get back from its seemingly perma-hiatus to debate the actions the country should take to protect itself? Our very existence is being threatened! Shouldn’t urgency translate into some ornamental stuffed suits warming federally-funded seats in the Capitol?

No, says Boehner, the biggest threat to our nation since Monkey Pox, the Knockout Game, or Hitler, can wait until the next Congress in 2015. Why? Because they agree with what the President is doing unilaterally. The President whom they say privately is a mom-jeans professorial Muslim-Brotherhood-loving pansy, is dropping bombs on the exact people for the exact reason Republicans would. A taxpayer-funded weapons give away? They love it! Republicans are effectively hiding in their rigged districts so they won’t have to look like they concur with Obama. You know, the president they voted to sue for unilaterally putting off fining small businesses for failing to provide health care to their employees. Something they also, you see, agree with. (Plus they claim to be against frivolous lawsuits. Ahem.)

And what about this alleged debate in Congress over the use of force against ISIS? Where would the dissent come from? How would we even call it a debate with a straight face? Who’s going to argue against the use of force? The anti-drone drone-on Rand Paul? Nope. Keep thinking. Scan your brain. Who are the doves in Congress? Where’s the anti-war caucus? Which is the party that prefers to err on the side of no air strikes? Who would call for the U.S. to pause before arming bands of militants in failed Middle Eastern states? Who are the public servants who’d be the voice for those who don’t want Tomahawk Missiles exploding in their name? There aren’t any. In Congress there are those for war and for more war. Just like President Obama.

See? Congress doesn’t disagree, they’re just profoundly disagreeable.


Photo by Angela Pan