The morning of March 21, 2010, Representative Daniel Lipinski of Illinois was one of 34 House Democrats to vote against the final iteration of Obamacare. Many who joined him that day are no longer serving in Congress, but unlike them, Lipinski did not, and does not, represent a district that continually places him in mortal political peril. He won reelection in 2012, for example, with about 70 percent of the vote.
Today Lipinski is leading the charge among House Democrats to delay Obamacare. He introduced a bill this week that would indefinitely extend the exchange market’s enrollment period and suspend the individual mandate until a neutral third party certified Healthcare.gov is up and running.
“I thought it was important to try to give some peace of mind to my constituents, to all Americans, who will know that until the website is up and properly functioning they’re not going to face a fine,” Lipinski says in a phone interview, adding that “so far this has been a disaster.”
Joining Lipinski are a small band of moderate dissidents including several freshman lawmakers who have proven tough for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to corral.
“I hear stories in general about Democrats being ‘encouraged’ not to be critical right now,” says Lipinski, who voted against Pelosi for speaker in January.
In 2010, Lipinski’s concerns with Obamacare were many, beginning with how it allows “taxpayer-funded abortions,” as he puts it. But he also thought that the estimates saying the law would reduce the deficit were bogus. Lipinski doubts the Medicare cuts in the law will ever become reality, noting that every year, Congress reverses its prior enactment of a “sustainable growth formula” to keep payments to doctors in check.
The calls for delay like Lipinski’s come after House Republicans shut the government down and brought the country to the brink of the debt-ceiling deadline in an effort to force Democrats to budge on the health-care law, even putting fairly modest reforms on the table in the course of the showdown.
Why, I ask Lipinski, are Democrats only now coming forward with their proposals to push the law’s deadlines back?
“It became such a political issue. I think the politics took center stage. Everyone’s focus became the partisan politics of it. Now that the shutdown is over people can take a look at it from a perspective of, ‘what’s really the best thing to do apart from the politics?’” he says.
Lipinski notes he’s against delaying the individual mandate for a full year because of the harm it would cause to businesses.
“I think a one-year delay of the law would be really detrimental. If you’re going to look at it from a business perspective, telling insurance companies they have to cover everybody and having them set their prices on the assumption there’s going to be a mandate — if you go and change that, remove that mandate, you are changing the rules on business. Not just in the middle of the game, but they can’t change their prices. They were done,” he says.
That’s not to say he isn’t open to suggestions. “Repeal and replace — if it’s a good replacement, I could support that. No one’s ever offered a sufficient replacement,” he says.