Colleague Steve Brawner wrote an excellent column last week on Arkansas’ bipartisan Medicaid fix. His point is one worth highlighting and further exploring.
He observed that the Arkansas Legislature offers a positive contrast to Washington in the way lawmakers are navigating the tricky waters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Republican leaders in the Legislature and the Democratic governor have formed a rather unique "private option" compromise to the expansion of Medicaid.
He is right. At least some in the Arkansas Legislature are coming to terms with a difficult fact: Although most Arkansans still oppose Obamacare we are stuck with it, at least for now.
Most of Washington either does not get that or is still pandering to voters who do not want to hear the facts. Last week Congress voted to repeal Obamacare entirely, but before anyone gets excited, it marked the 39th time Congress has done that and it is doubtful this time will be any more successful than the previous 38.
There is no doubt that the Republican majority in Congress wants to see Obamacare go away. But the problem is that Democrats control the Senate and do not share that sentiment. Even if they did, President Obama certainly would veto the repeal of his signature policy if it got to his desk. It would take two-thirds of both chambers to override such a veto and there is no chance that would happen.
With repeal not possible and the Supreme Court appearing unwilling to strike down the law, Republicans need to get a strategy other than symbolic votes for repeal. Next up appears to be an attack on the funding mechanism of Obamacare. With the Republican Congress controlling the power of purse, they know they can at least slow down implementation.
While that may have some success, the inability to agree on any budgetary matter makes the strategy complicated. The fight over sequester may end up having the unintended consequence of accomplishing that — at least in part — since mechanisms for implementation of Obamacare will not be immune from the across-the-board cuts.
The broad goals are noble but perhaps Washington lawmakers should take a lesson from Arkansas’ leaders, who seem to be taking their medicine with the best face possible. Even lawmakers who have been some of the loudest opponents of Obamacare are beginning to warm up to the idea of reforming instead of repealing.
"The bottom line has yet to be seen but a real conservative solution is possible. There’s no way for the state Legislature to prevent most of the dramatic increase in mandated federal expenditures, but we can do our best to make sure that every dollar spent is used as judiciously as possible," Republican Rep. Nate Bell of Mena wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.
If our state legislators can find a way to make some lemonade out of lemons, surely those in Washington can as well.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.