This administration came into office buoyed by the good will of the American people and carrying banners of bipartisanship. When historians look back — in two years, one hopes — and assess why it is that the Obama administration failed to live up to its promise, they need look no further than today’s vote on repeal of Obamacare.
In the midst of historic economic challenges, this administration had an opportunity to promote a consensus agenda. When President Obama was inaugurated, Americans of all parties were demanding meaningful actions to fix our economy, get the national debt under control, promote economic growth, and get America back to work — not an unreasonable request when unemployment stood at near 10 percent. They understood that the last thing the country needed was an unconstitutional $2.6 trillion health bill that destroys jobs, increases health costs, raises taxes, and threatens liberty.
But the White House didn’t listen. They moved full speed ahead, using every budget gimmick and procedural trick in the book to jam their bill through both the House and the Senate despite growing opposition from all across America.
After enacting this law with almost no Republican support, the administration then set about writing the thousands of pages of regulations that would govern how Americans got their health care.
But the American people did not forget how they were slighted in this debate. Last November, they sent a clear message at voting booths across the country that they would not be ignored and that they wanted Congress to overturn Obamacare.
Unlike the Democratic majority before them, House Republicans listened to the overwhelming message of their constituents and two weeks ago voted to repeal this monstrosity of a law. In its place, they are working on real reform that doesn’t put the government between patients and their doctors, that actually reduces costs and expands care in a thoughtful way, and that does not bankrupt the country.
The momentum for repeal of Obamacare grew this week when a federal district court judge in Florida issued a landmark decision striking down Obamacare in its entirety. He found that the requirement forcing Americans to buy health insurance or face a penalty stretched the limits on the national government’s power well beyond the boundaries set forth in our Constitution. And because the entirety of Obamacare is so inextricably linked to the individual mandate, the whole law — not just a part — fell.
On the heels of this court decision, Senate Republicans worked this week to force a vote that would overturn Obamacare. The American people want this vote. The more they learn about Obamacare the less they like it.
Yet, those on the other side who have themselves acknowledged that this law should be fixed remain determined to ignore the will of the people, and they blocked our efforts to repeal this fundamentally flawed law and start over on real reform.
Unfortunately, Democrats have made clear that they will defend this colossal mistake no matter what. The special-interest groups that the Democrats depend on will not tolerate repeal, even though the actual constituents that Democrats represent are demanding it. Unfortunately, the people stand to lose in the Democrats’ calculus.
The conventional wisdom is that my colleagues and I are pursuing a symbolic act. Pundits opine that attempts to repeal Obamacare might make for good theatre, but are senseless exercises. In my view, this attitude demonstrates a profound lack of respect for the citizens of a democratic republic.
Over time, given the power of ideas and an engaged citizenry, initially symbolic acts have a way of becoming law. It might not happen overnight, but citizens — exercising their constitutional rights of petition and redress — have a way of reminding even the most hardened of partisan politicians that their job is to represent their constituents.
I rest easy knowing that I am standing with my fellow Utahns and the people of this country, whose distrust of Obamacare grows as they learn more about it.
To borrow from Justice Scalia, the American people despise Obamacare because the American people love democracy and the American people are not fools. They know that this law was enacted in a totally partisan manner, and over the loud opposition of a majority of Americans. And they know that giant new entitlement programs do not save money.
The American people, and our democracy, will eventually win this debate.
When the day comes that we repeal this law, it will be a triumph for our Constitution, for personal liberty, and most important, for the American people, who persevered in their resistance to this law.
— Orrin Hatch is a Republican U.S. senator from Utah.