Friday, January 1, 2010

Will Republicans Suffer the Fate of Icarus?

In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father Daedalus (an inventor) were imprisoned by King Minos of Crete. Daedalus knew that the only escape route was by air, so he used his skills to build wings - made of wax - for himself and Icarus. Daedalus warned Icarus not to overreach; for if he flew too high, the sun could melt the wax of his wings. You know the end of the story -- Icarus fell in love with flight and through his exhilaration, he ignored his father's warning and flew higher and higher. The sun melted the wax on his wings and he fell into the water and drowned.

Republicans seem to me to be getting dangerously close to the sun. In their apparent exhilaration by Obama's shrinking poll numbers and national ambivalence on health reform legislation, they have plowed full steam ahead to do everything possible to oppose national health reform. Now they are even taking the fight outside of the legislative process.  Thirteen Republican state attorneys general, led by South Carolina AG Henry McMaster, are threatening to sue the federal government over the deal that was cut with Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska -- to fund 100% of the state's Medicaid expansions -- to secure his vote for the bill. As far as I can tell, there is no remotely-legitimate legal basis for this suit. I wonder if these attorneys general have contemplated suit when their states have been beneficiaries of numerous Congressional earmarks over the years?

I also see in a story from that the Republicans are launching an effort to repeal the bill (before it is even passed, mind you!) to curry favor in the 2010 Congressional elections.

Here's the deal. Are there legitimate things to gripe about in the bill? Absolutely. But the Republican strategy has not been to constructively discuss those issues and try to improve the bill. It has been an all out assault. Moreover, despite some concerns, at the end of the day, the American public tends to be reasonable and pragmatic. And notwithstanding some not-so-good things in the bill, any ordinary, reasonable, prudent person (a term we use in the law) cannot deny the inescapable conclusion that this bill will do a ton of good, which far outweighs the not-so-good. For crying out loud, it will provide health insurance to 31,000,000 people who do not have it today! It advances the ball on improving quality, promoting efficiency and bending the cost curve. See my prior posts (you can look at the category list under "health reform") for the many other ways this bill does good.

Perhaps the Republicans know something I do not (very likely). But I cannot help but think that through their unwavering efforts to do nothing other than try to kill the most significant advancement of social health legislation in a generation, they will be seen at the end of the day to be brazenly placing their own political interest above the national interest. Political parties - both Democrat and Republican - have a dubious history of overreaching when they feel the exhilaration of flight. It looks to me like that may be about to happen again.


  1. Very interesting perspective, Doug. I'm not sure I see an end to the divisive attitudes in my lifetime.

  2. Hi Mary. Thanks for your comment. Perhaps I am a naive optimist, but I am somewhat more hopeful. I do think we will need to live a long time, though! It will be interesting to see what happens this year, particularly in the mid-term elections.