, Newburyport, MA

October 9, 2013

GOP should release grip on budget

Newburyport Daily News

---- — The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is known to many, passed into law. It withstood challenges in court. And its implementation began four years ago.

So what are House Republicans doing by stalling the budgeting process, shutting down federal government services and demanding that President Obama modify the ACA? The answer: undertaking an exercise in futility, wasting time and diverting the attention of the American people.

Whatever you think of the Affordable Care Act, it’s the law of the land. That’s the message that Obama has delivered to tea party Republicans, who’ve done nothing but serve as obstructionists.

Americans are well versed in the partisan nature of the debate over Obamacare. It was passed along party lines, and as long as it is on the books it will be a lightning rod for debate and disruption. Looking at Massachusetts’ experience with our own version — “Romneycare,” as it is called — it’s clear that the legislation has been expensive, but it has almost completely closed the loop on people having health insurance. Certainly that is a basic need for citizens of this country.

Obamacare is far more complicated than Romneycare. Making this more distressful is the recent launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace, a key provision of the ACA, is tangled in red tape. It has significant problems, without a doubt, that must be fixed.

We have seen plenty of harmful disruption caused by the government shutdown, and much posturing on both sides that seems to have only pushed them farther apart than the Grand Canyon-like gap that already separated them. Now throw in the threat that the national debt ceiling may not be lifted and the nation may default on its loans, and we have the recipe for an economic disaster. Who gains from that?

There are some aspects of the GOP’s intent that should be addressed by both parties. Our national debt has climbed to an unsustainable level. We must find a way to curb our spending. Congress and the president must work side by side on this for the good of the nation.

The thrust of the ACA — to provide affordable health care and health insurance to millions of Americans who cannot afford either — is noble. House Republicans should give up this silly charade that portrays it as something that can be negotiated away. Above all, they should stop holding the federal budget hostage.