The battle over President Obama’s health care law cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and wasted a lot more time than it should have. There was ample room for compromise. Although the two parties held strong ideological differences, few disagreed with the driving needs for reform: ballooning costs and growing disparities in coverage.
But health care – and most other significant legislative business – ran headlong into a quixotic and divisive Republican strategy to oppose every Obama initiative in the hope of limiting his presidency to one term.
At a time when the national to-do list is long with urgent and significant issues – the national debt, immigration, energy security, climate change, etc. – the possibility of devoting another Congress to undoing health care runs contrary to the national interest.
That is not to say the Affordable Care Act is perfect. There is certainly room for greater flexibility to states and businesses in addressing costs. Recognition of valid nonmedical approaches to health care are also appropriate. But these and other omissions reflect the impoverishing effect of obstructive politics.
Obama’s legislation passed without a single Republican vote. It is not only tempting but possible to imagine how much stronger the Act might have been – and how unnecessary the court drama that followed – had it emerged from an engaged bipartisan debate and agreement.
This might be where the court decision constructively points a finger at those most responsible for the shape of our politics: the people.