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December 19, 2014

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Put up or shut up

Instead of joining the debate, GOP moves again to stop needed legislation

President Barack Obama released his proposal to overhaul the nation’s health care system Monday, just three days before his planned summit on the issue with both Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. Republicans immediately criticized the president.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Obama had “crippled the credibility” of the summit, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called it “disappointing.” They said that by releasing the plan, Obama showed he wasn’t open to any of their ideas.

What ideas? So far, the Republicans haven’t offered anything substantial to the debate. Their “plan” would only cover an additional 3 million people over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, leaving more than 50 million people without insurance. Some big idea that is. The Republican game plan is to block any reform from happening to keep their patrons in the insurance industry happy.

Republicans want Obama and the Democrats to drop their reform plans and start over, which would all but kill the issue in Congress. Because Democrats have refused, McConnell on Sunday went so far as to call them “arrogant.”

Who’s arrogant? Both the bills in the House and the Senate passed by large margins last year. The only reason the issue hasn’t been resolved is because Republicans broke the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

The GOP has scared Americans by falsely describing reform measures. However, people want change in the system and when asked about the components of health care reform, they largely support them.

Obama’s proposal is a common-sense plan. He took the best elements of the Senate version of the legislation and eliminated some of its controversial elements, including what some critics have said is a sweetheart deal for Nebraska.

If the Republicans don’t like it, then they should come with their ideas to Thursday’s summit. The president says he is open to ideas. Speaking last month at the House Republican retreat, Obama said his administration reads proposed legislation and incorporates the good ideas into its own plans.

Instead of bringing ideas, both Boehner and McConnell retreated to their old talking points. They bashed Obama’s proposal as a “backroom bill.” Never mind the fact that they’ll be able to discuss it and offer their own ideas Thursday — in a summit that will be broadcast on television. Boehner complained the plan is a “massive government takeover of health care,” even though there is no truth to that statement.

If Boehner is really worried about bureaucrats running health care, would he then propose eliminating Medicare or the Veterans Affairs Department to show ideological consistency? What about private insurance, whose bureaucrats dictate what medical care people will — or won’t — receive?

Republicans have been obstructionists, which will be clear to the Americans on Thursday, assuming the GOP doesn’t cowardly boycott the meeting. It’s time for the GOP to drop the hypocrisy. Republicans should either admit that they don’t care about Americans’ health, which is what their actions show, or change their ways and work with the president to do something about it.

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