The Political Fallout

It is nice to be able to write, now, about the new health care reform law, as opposed to the health care reform bill. With President Obama’s signature, we are now irrevocably on a path to universal access to health coverage. (Sr. Carol Keehan received one of the twenty pens Obama used to sign the landmark legislation, in recognition of her hard work in crafting the new law.) As the USCCB mentioned in their statement yesterday, that is a major achievement.

Despite my plea last week, the recriminations have begun. One website has a link to a clip from the movie "A Man for All Seasons" when Thomas More confronts Richard Rich, and suggests that Sister Carol was, like Rich, selling out God for political power. Nice. Congressman Bart Stupak, whose pro-life credentials need no defense from anyone, has received death threats – the irony is stunning – from pro-life advocates who believe he abandoned their cause. And, you have to love those attorneys-general who are suing to challenge the law’s constitutionality. Just yesterday, weren’t these same actors warning us against judicial activism mangling our political system?


The bishops strike a different note and it is one that we pro-life Catholics who supported the bill must take to heart. We must be watchful. The President and many members of Congress said that the new law would not in anyway violate the letter or the spirit of the Hyde Amendment. (It is to be remembered that pro-choice groups objected to the original Stupak Amendment not because it banned public funds for abortion but because it had the effect of banning private funds too.) Indeed, the Executive Order the President negotiated with Cong. Stupak is one large promise that the law, not just as it is written but as it will be implemented, will abide by the Hyde Amendment restrictions. It is our job to hold the President and members of Congress to those promises, but I do not think it will take much effort. I can’t imagine how anyone thinks it would be in the President’s political interest to violate the pledges he made and all politicians, of every place, time and party, can usually be counted upon to pursue their political interest.

Because there was so much disinformation about the contents of the legislation, Democrats need to continue to sell the new law. The President clearly understands this, placing 11 year-old Marcelas Owens next to him as he signed the new law. Owens’ mother died because she lacked insurance and could not afford care. The President has regained his voice in the past month and he should use it to help Americans understand the many things in this law that they will like and to point out that the sky has not fallen.

Members of Congress, however, need to do their part. Pro-life members should schedule events at the community health centers, which became so controversial in the final weeks of the debate, to demonstrate that they do not perform abortions. All pro-health care members should schedule events around the time of college graduation, noting that until the new law passed, one of the first questions a graduating senior asked was where they were going to find health insurance. Have a photo-op with students and their parents who will be taking advantage of the law’s provision allowing young people to stay on their parents insurance until age 26. Most importantly, escort someone with a pre-existing condition to go sign up for the high-risk pool the new law establishes. There is much confusion about when the pre-existing condition rules change and for whom, but they are the symbolic centerpiece of what needed to be changed about the insurance system.

So, the legislative debate gives way to a political debate, which is how we do things in this great country of ours. I suspect that the "Repeal" effort will come a cropper quickly as most Republicans – other than the Tea Party folk – recognize the limits of that approach. Both parties have their own reasons to find some common ground on other issues in the next few months, the Republicans so that they do not get tagged as the Party of No, and the Democrats so they do not get tagged as purely partisan. The President should reach out to moderate Republicans and help find that common ground. And everyone else should, as I counseled before, back off with the recriminations. They do not serve anyone’s interest including your own.


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James Lindsay
8 years 4 months ago
The EO is irrelevant, since the Nelson amendments take care of preventing federal dollars for abortion. The USCCB analysis really was ignorant - as the CHA analysis demonstrated. The Executive Order just let Stupak save face.
8 years 4 months ago
I don't know what universe some live on but to say the government can't mandate insurance is wrong. I live where car insurance is mandated, Unemployment insurance is mandated, workmans compensation insurance is mandated and I suspect there are more. Tell all your Republican. State Atty Generals get off and to start indicting mortgage fraud people. pandering to know-nothing Tea party people is sad.
8 years 4 months ago
Hey Ed Gleason,
I do not believe that the EO is worthless but can you tell me why it is necessary?
Helena Loflin
8 years 4 months ago
At worst, the EO is redundant.  Stupak's amendment went beyond Hyde.  In order for Stupak to save face, he needed something so that he could vote for HCR.  The president gave Stupak the EO.  The EO is Hyde.
James Lindsay
8 years 4 months ago
How is it "crude" to state that the USCCB staff analyst ignored the facts of the matter when advising the bishops? The wording may have been unfornuate, but I was in a hurry. I do not take back my contention that the Bishops are badly advised, as is evident by their continued fixation on Roe v. Wade and the possibility it could be overturned by the SCOTUS without endangering most equal protection jurisprudence. The USCCB needs to find a bit more diversity of opinion in its pro-life shop. I fear it is dominated by GOP true believers.
James Lindsay
8 years 4 months ago
I'm finding it odd that people commented on one word in a response about abortion and left uncommented on my analysis that reform was a stalking horse for enactment of a single payer plan. Abortion funding is an itty bitty part of the whole enterprise and people are fixating on it. Amazing and sad.
james belna
8 years 4 months ago
I believe that Mr Stupak has received death threats, and I unequivocally condemn the perpetrators of such a vile act. However, I cannot find any news reports which claim, much less conclusively establish, that pro-life advocates are responsible for those threats. I have carefully read Mr Stupak’s comments on this matter, and to my knowledge he has not attributed the threats to any particular individuals or groups. 
Unlike Mr Stupak, Mr Winters has publicly and specifically accused pro-life advocates of being responsible for making the death threats. This is a very serious charge, and it is incumbent upon him to substantiate it. If he cannot provide any evidence that his allegation is true, I call upon Mr Winters and America Magazine to issue a retraction and an apology to the pro-life community.
James Lindsay
8 years 4 months ago
I think using the term "baby killer" in the death threat kind of gives it away.
William Kurtz
8 years 4 months ago
Peter Shore observed (in a thoughtful post) that he feared the political climate was changing and that pro-lifers were struggling.
Why is that?
I suspect it's because professional pro-lifers lost credibility by shilling for the Bush administration and Republicans in general. The best comment I've seen was in the New York Times Magazine profile of Prof. Robert George. In that article, John Haldane, a Scotsman described as an advisor to the Vatican and "an orthodox Catholic opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage," said he could not have recommended voting for either candidate in the 2008 presidential election.
"If you were going to vote for John McCain, how are you going to square that with discussions about social justice," he asked, "about the running sore of structural deprivation running through American society, or the prosecution of an unjust war?"
"There has been a tendency of social conservatives to either hold their noses because they are more concerned about abortion," he added, "or just not to notice the smell."
Count on professional pro-lifers "not to notice the smell" of their teabagger allies, or the injustices of health care as it has been structured.
James Lindsay
8 years 4 months ago
Since the Insurance Exchanges don't take effect until January 1, 2014,we have time to fix any holes that allow federal money into abortion clinics. It was really sad that the Bishops thought it needed to be defeated before fixing. Now that it is law, we can unite behind any needed fixes.

Of course, it could be argued that Insurance Exchanges will never be enacted. The Republicans spent too much time on historionics and not enough time explaining their position - that reform is a prelude to real government run health care - either a single payer Canadian system or a British national health service. They left people with the impression that if you give the Democrats an inch, they will take a mile. That is not how it will happen, however.

Here is what I told the White House, the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee majority and minority staffs:

"The main attraction of single payer comes from the nature of commercially provided insurance to seek profit, and how that effects the delivery of service. The problem is that even with all of the consumer responsibility you can think of, the drive for greater and greater profits will have insurance companies constantly searching for ways to avoid paying for the care they promise their policy holders. Firms are less concerned about deductible levels as they are about how to avoid paying for serious chronic illness. Patients with several risk factors, such as a high BMI and advancing age, are not attractive to insurers since they detract from the bottom line due to the possibility of stroke, diabetes, heart attack et al. If insurers must cover everyone and can't charge potentially sicker people more, their ability to increase profits over time (which seems to be the goal of privately held firms) will be greatly impacted. In the end, their business model will not handle covering everyone at a market rate. This will lead to either consolidation (until they can't consolidate anymore), bail outs or the offloading of the sickest to some kind of public fund. In other words, single-payer insurance is almost inevitable - whether by government mandate or because of the natural tendencies of the market. Does this mean Congress can pass single payer healthcare now? It would be extremely unlikely for the industry or Congress to be that forward thinking. The best thing measure at this time is to pass something now and let events develop. If and when the bottom falls out of the industry, however, Government must be ready with some kind of single payer proposal."

In other words, private insurance is doomed. It will be doomed faster if mandates are found unconstitutional or are inneffective to really force participation (especially if you can drop coverage until you get sick).

If the GOP had said this more clearly, rather than sounding like a bunch of conspiracy nuts, they could have stopped the inevitability of single-payer, which will come about once the insurance industry starts running to TARP after their stock price starts to tank. My advice if you have a small fortune and want a big fortune is to buy a CDO betting that within 10 years the Insurance companies will go to TARP and be liquidated (or be ready to sell their stocks short).
8 years 4 months ago
It might help stop recriminations if you stop portraying all opponents of the health care law in light of its worst elements.  I still renew my call to America to invite someone like Cong. Joseph Cao, former Jesuit & moral theology professor, and opponent of the bill, to offer his reasons for voting NO!  This would showcase the BEST of the opponents!
8 years 4 months ago
send him an email and let him post here. .. I'm interested too. let him explain why the EO is worhless..
8 years 4 months ago

Your state mandates insurance. Not the federal government.
Gabriel Marcella
8 years 4 months ago
There is a diversity of views among Catholics, but we should be united in one thing: crude language diminishes the author and intimidates readers from participating in this blog. So please, let's clean up this blog of such gratuities as "The USCCB analysis really was ignorant." If something is important enough to occupy space here the language should dignify all of us.
8 years 4 months ago
Mr. Bindner, your (crude) characterization of the Republicans' position & the Bishops' statements reveal more about you than the people you're attacking.  I don't think Paul Ryan or Tom Coburn's statements & interaction with Pres. Obama could be characterized as histrionics anymore than liberals' interactions w/ Pres. Bush during the Iraq war debate were.  Unfortunately, you seem more committed to your far-left agenda rather than rationally assessing arguments.
Pearce Shea
8 years 4 months ago
The EO isn't worthless. It just isn't sufficient. Truman's most famous EO, 9881 (I think I got that right) was issued in part because Truman knew the military was changing, and he decided to give it a push. He had faith that in the years to come, the EO would no longer be necessary (and like a decade and a half later, it wasn't). The Emancipation Proclamation was symbolic. It represented what Lincoln wanted, not the law. It was the 13th amendment that made slaves truly free.
So really, this argument about the EO has to do with where we see our country going. Do we see more pro-life politicians in our future? Enough to formalize the EO into law? Or do we see the political climate becoming increasingly liberal? The fear here I think is that the political climate is already such that its hard to tell which side will win out, though the pro-life one has been struggling as of late...
Other than that- I think, MSW, that most conservative lawmakers are already well aware that legal recourse isn't going to reap much, if any real rewards. I don't think any of them are trying to overturn the bill in the courts in the hopes that it will work, but because it's not just politically useful, but politically necessary. If you fight something tooth and nail like that it's important to not just throw up your arms and walk away at your first failure. Not only could this get Cuccinelli political cred with conservatives, failing to do so would make him look bad- like he left all the work to the congresspeople.
Marc Monmouth
8 years 4 months ago
I would also like to hear from Cao. Chuck Colson has a nice commentary on why the EO is worthless. Read it at


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