Your Congressman and mine, Ed Royce, Jr., voted in favor of House Resolution 59, which would pass the fiscal year 2014 budget, but require a one year delay of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). Ed Royce’s official website will tell you that he is becoming a “quiet giant of foreign policy” by virtue of his Chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There is even a helpful guide entitled Information for Constituents on the Government Shutdown to explain how his vote to defund most of the government (he’ll continue to be paid) will affect us. But there is no attempt to explain why Mr. Royce thinks that shutting down the government is a good idea, only an evasive reference to the origin of the crisis in “a lapse in funding.” Ronald Reagan, who famously said of the Iran-Contra scandal that “mistakes were made,” would be proud.
Perhaps we shouldn’t spend too much time wondering why Ed Royce would join his Republican colleagues in taking such an extreme step just to stop the Affordable Care Act. I don’t blame him for not liking it. It’s not a good solution to the problem of massive numbers of people in this country having inadequate or no health care. It’s a compromise plan that needlessly keeps insurance companies involved, ensuring that profits are still funneled their way when the whole system could instead be operated as a non-profit for everyone’s benefit. But the Affordable Care Act would provide coverage for millions who currently have nothing, and in the states that have chosen to begin taking applications for it, it seems to be popular, which is exactly why Ed Royce and the Republican party cannot risk its full implementation.
If it turns out that the federal government can do something at least partially effective to address the healthcare crisis, then perhaps the government can be useful to ordinary Americans in other ways too. And if that’s true, then maybe government isn’t the problem Ronald Reagan said it was. Maybe it’s OK for the government to regulate toxins, protect wilderness, invest in clean renewable energy, provide education, and other things most people want, and tax really rich people to do it. Ed Royce can’t take that risk.