THE BLOG

Serious or Cynical? Time for Republicans to Show What They Really Believe

10/01/2013 12:18 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

One of the cornerstones of my lifetime of public service has been to work on bipartisanship. I have a long record of working with Republican governors and Senators back home in Oregon. Here in Congress, every major initiative I have advanced has been to find ways to engage bipartisan sponsorship, finding ways that bring people together to solve problems rather than divide them. But here in Congress, I must say it has been, under the Republican leadership, difficult, if not impossible.

For example, there has been the claim that they want to repeal and replace Obamacare. They have never indicated a hint of how they would replace the Affordable Care Act and protect its most important provisions. They cannot say how they would produce a healthcare plan that would eliminate the stark specter of medical bankruptcy, which under the Affordable Care Act, Americans no longer have to fear. They have no plan to protect families from being denied health insurance because of preexisting conditions and eliminate the pernicious lifetime limits which penalize families in the most desperate and tragic of circumstances.

Now we're in the middle of their manufactured crisis of a government shutdown, and they risk a meltdown of the global economy by threatening America would not pays its bills on the national debt.

There are three simple steps my Republican friends could take to prove they are serious and not cynical.

First of all, Republicans campaigned across the breadth of this country saying they would repeal the ACA, but they have included in their budget over a half trillion dollars of savings under the act and all of the revenues from the taxes. If they are serious and not cynical, they will remove that money from their budget and show what other services they would cut, or taxes they would raise.

If they are serious and not cynical, they would bring their own spending bills to the floor for their member's vote. Remember, we still having pending the Transportation-HUD spending bill. On July 30th, they just stopped in the middle of it because they figured out that the bill was so bad that their own members wouldn't vote for it. If they are serious and not cynical about their spending plan, they ought to allow their members to vote on their own spending bills, see if there's any more support now than there was three months ago. Then, bring the Interior spending bill; it has been in committee limbo. The showstopper will be the Labor, Health, and Human Services budget. If they are serious and not cynical, they will have those votes to show the American public what they really believe in.

Last night, I was stunned that the final act in their "Let's Make a Deal," made-for-TV semi-reality show was to demand that a conference committee be appointed on the Affordable Care Act. They want a conference committee on a bill that has already been law for three years, that the American health care industry and local government have spent billions of dollars getting ready to implement, which goes into effect today!

If you're serious about working together in a cooperative basis and negotiating differences and want a conference committee, why don't you appoint a conference committee on the budget? The Senate and the House have both approved budgets. The Republicans have refused to appoint conferees so people can work together to solve these differences. That is a pending item right now. We had a jaw-dropping moment in the Budget Committee when my friend, Chairman Paul Ryan, said the reason they would not appoint conferees is because there might be motions to instruct. My goodness! The House might express its will and not be tightly controlled.

We are in the midst of a manufactured government shutdown crisis and a looming disaster if they throw a tantrum that prevents America from paying its bills. Republicans can prove that they are serious and not cynical by not using the health care reform savings to fund their budget, bring their own spending bills to the floor and allow them to be voted on, and then have a conference committee, not on a law that is three years old, but on a pending item between the House and the Senate.

Sooner or later the system ought to be allowed to work.