Dawn has broken on healthcare – The Hill (blog)
The American lexicon contains scores of expressions designed to frame the unlikeliest plot twists. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat. Darkest before the dawn. Maybe most popular of late: the tipping point.
For years, rank polarization has driven members of Congress into partisan tribes. Angry extremists on the right and left scoffed at any bipartisan compromise. Working with the other side branded you a political traitor. That mentality wrought exactly what any neutral observer would expect. A country with big challenges could only make progress when one party or the other garnered enough power to overwhelm the other completely. And because it’s so rare in American politics for either party to have unchecked influence in Washington, the big issues of our time—healthcare, retirement security, infrastructure, tax reform, the list goes on and on—have been mired in gridlock.
This week, that is beginning to change.
Seven years ago, for the first time in American history, Democrats enacted the Affordable Care Act despite lockstep opposition from legislators across the aisle. And last week, Republican efforts to do the same fell apart by one vote. So what is left?
Stepping forward are a bipartisan band of House “problem solvers.”
From the ashes of the Senate’s failure to replace ObamaCare has emerged, at long last, a bipartisan compromise. Cognizant that Washington’s failure to address healthcare in any meaningful way would spur health insurance premiums to spike, the House Problem Solvers Caucus actually came up with a plan.
Let us type those words again: This group of more than 40 Democrats and Republicans actually came up with a plan. Not gauzy rhetoric. Not lofty principles. Not a long-range commitment to working together. The Problem Solvers negotiated for days to strike a compromise plan that will stabilize health insurance markets and prevent a significant spike in premiums for consumers.
Not for 20 years has Washington seen the glimmer of this sort of grand compromise. That was when Bill ClintonBill ClintonPenalties assessed by EPA decline under Trump, study finds Bill and Hillary Clinton to take questions at joint Dallas appearance Monica Lewinsky responds to Scaramucci calling New Yorker reporter ‘the Linda Tripp of 2017′ MORE and Newt Gingrich balanced the budget, established the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and cut the tax on capital gains. For all you doubters who thought the days of American compromise were over, the Problem Solvers have proven you wrong. Democrats and Republicans can work together for the common good. And they have. All it takes is the will to do so.
Of course, it’s important to remember what a grand bargain is: a plan in which everyone can find something to hate—but that everyone can support because it serves the common good. With our system of checks and balance, this is what American democracy is supposed to look like.
So what’s in this compromise? For those who believe the nation would be best served in the long-run if the exchanges implode entirely, the Problem Solvers fix will prove a disappointment. The deal provides real relief for the ordinary citizens who buy insurance through the marketplace. Without this compromise, individual premiums would have exploded—and many would have returned to the ranks of the uninsured. Democrats can mark this down as a big score for the progressive movement.
But this compromise does something the Republicans will love as well: It provides relief to the small businesses struggling to fulfill the law’s requirement that they provide health insurance to their employees. Under the old law, small businesses with more than 50 employees had to provide employer-sponsored healthcare. Under the compromise, that ceiling is lifted to cover companies with 500 or more people on the payroll. For conservatives who came to Washington intent on lifting the burden on free enterprise, that marks a huge victory.
The chairs of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Reps. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), deserve enormous credit for crafting the sort of compromise no one thought possible. Now it’s up to the rest of Washington to take this gift and run with it. This is a big deal. It’s historic. If, as the saying goes, it really is always darkest before the dawn, we should greet this grand bargain with what it may portend: a new, better day for America.
Evan Bayh, a national co-chair of No Labels, served as governor of Indiana from 1989 to 1997 and as a U.S. senator from Indiana from 1999 to 2011. Tom Davis is a former Representative of Virginia’s 11th District and a co-founder of the bipartisan organization No Labels.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.