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America's First Priority for 2014

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Democrats and Republicans didn't find a lot to agree on in 2013, but the first and most important action they should agree on in 2014 is to delay -- perhaps indefinitely -- the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

Delaying the individual mandate of the ACA is the only way to protect more than 100 million of our fellow citizens from the harsh realities of the ACA -- realities that include sticker-shock premiums, unaffordable deductibles, the loss of personal physicians we know and trust, as well as our future access to the best care, facilities, treatments and medicines.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, as we are repeatedly reminded. But if this law cannot be changed, as many of its supporters insist, why does the President continue to change it? It is President Obama, after all, who has issued scores of waivers to corporations, unions and the members of Congress, protecting them from the consequences of the ACA. The Obama Administration announced on December 19 that people whose policies were canceled this year -- an estimated 5 million Americans -- will temporarily be exempted from the law's individual mandate. Many insist there are valid reasons for these exemptions. I could not agree more! But if some of us merit protection from a hardship -- indeed, from a looming catastrophe -- don't we all?

Should the President continue to refuse a delay in the individual mandate, then Democrats who are truly independent must break free from the grip of their leadership. It is past time for Democrats and Republicans to join together to create a bipartisan coalition for courage and common sense. President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, reminded our nation that "sometimes party loyalty asks too much." Today, party loyalty should not mean turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to all the pleas from those begging Congress to act. Failure to delay the individual mandate will ensure that the harm from this law will worsen and become more widespread with each passing week.

Looking ahead, there are key lessons to be learned from this debacle.

First, truly landmark pieces of legislation, including the Social Security Act, Medicare and the Kennedy and Reagan tax reductions -- historically have garnered strong support from both parties. The ACA did not. In fact, its backers dismissed many legitimate warnings and reservations, then jammed their bill through Congress on a party-line vote. No one should be surprised that the ACA now lacks support from a majority of the American people.

Second, successful governance must be built on a foundation of truth. Without truth, trust is lost. The ACA could not have been passed were it not for the repeated assertions, which proved to be false, that Americans who liked their health plans and their doctors could keep them.

Finally, the whole notion that government is best suited to run and control such a large segment of our economy should have some basis of evidence. Where in history is any such evidence to be found?

While we can all agree that the American health care system is far from perfect and needs to be reformed, it is still, unquestionably, the finest in the world. If there is to be any hope for saving this national treasure, the time to act is now.