Opinion: Who is Congress hearing?

September 25, 2013


“The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare. The House has listened to the American people.”

That’s what Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said at the GOP’s victory rally Friday after the House voted to pass a spending bill that cut all funding for the president’s health-care law — and took the country one step closer to a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

The American people, alas, weren’t in the room to speak for themselves. But was Boehner right about their desires? Polls show that most Americans are, not surprisingly, divided.

Yes, a majority doesn’t like Obamacare. They’re unsure about what it will do and worried that it might make their health care worse. But do they really want to defund the law, and risk the chaos of a government shutdown to do it? Probably not, most polls suggest.

As one Republican pollster told me, though a majority of voters don’t like Obamacare, they’re not angry enough about it to risk a fiscal crisis that could hurt the economy.

Listening to the choir

So why are Republican lawmakers hearing a different message? Because most of them represent districts so conservative that they are listening only to their own choir. “It’s clear where the public in my district is,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., a tea party firebrand. “They want Obamacare repealed. They want it defunded. They want it dismantled.”

Bridenstine, a Navy Reserve pilot from Tulsa, is probably right. In his solidly Republican district, Mitt Romney won two-thirds of the vote in the last presidential election.

A visit to the House side of Capitol Hill these days feels a bit like an excursion to an alternate universe, where the voters are all conservative, the will of the American people is crystal clear and the only mystery is how that Obama fellow ever got re-elected.

“This is all a result of redistricting,” a Republican strategist told me. “The only election these guys have to worry about is the Republican primary. The only danger they face is from the right.”

According to ratings compiled by Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, only 28 of the House’s 233 Republicans have even a theoretical chance of losing their seats to a Democrat next year; the other 205 are safe as long as they win their primaries. (The same is true of most House Democrats, of course.)

Obama will be winner

Outside the conservative bubble of the House GOP conference, the politics of the budget standoff look different. Karl Rove, former political adviser to George W. Bush, has warned that the only winner in a government shutdown would be Obama. “This is one thing that can rescue him,” Rove said on Fox News.

In the Senate, Republicans acknowledge there is almost no chance of passing legislation to defund Obamacare, the president’s most cherished achievement. Even Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the loudest champion of the defund Obamacare movement, agreed on that last week, landing him in hot water with the House conservatives he was urging to plunge ahead.

Strategy is a trap

The entire strategy, warned Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is “a box canyon” for Republicans — a trap with no way out but retreat.

Cruz and other tea party senators have vowed to filibuster to block the Senate from approving a spending bill that doesn’t defund Obamacare, but Senate rules make that difficult. So the Senate is expected to strip the Obamacare provision and kick the bill back to the House, where Boehner and his Republicans will consider their next move.

They might make a dignified retreat and pass the Senate version before the Sept. 30 deadline. Or, more likely, they might engage in another round of legislative pingpong, in which doomed proposals bounce between the two branches of Congress as the clock runs out. One veteran budget guru, Stan Collender of Qorvis Communications, puts the chances of a government shutdown at 70 percent.

Debt ceiling the real fight

And that’s not even the worst possible outcome. Boehner and his lieutenants have told House members that the current battle over the spending bill is only a preliminary bout. The real fight, they’ve said, will be over the debt ceiling — the government’s authority to borrow money to pay its bills, which is expected to run out in October or November,

Once again, conservatives have begun telling one another that the American people would welcome the crisis if it resulted in less federal spending and the end of Obamacare. They argue that a debt-ceiling standoff wouldn’t force the federal government to default on its debts and throw the world economy into crisis; the Treasury, they say, could keep paying bondholders and stop most of its other checks. Even if that were possible (and the Treasury Department says it isn’t), the world’s lenders would almost certainly downgrade Uncle Sam’s credit rating, imposing higher interest costs on the federal budget for years to come.

This may sound like just another round of Washington’s recurring impasse, but this time the prospects for a quick solution look worse. The Republicans have chosen to demand the one concession Obama is least likely to make: the crippling of Obamacare. And the GOP’s chief deal maker, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is battling a primary challenge on his right, which means he’s not eager to play the role of middleman this year.

When Boehner described what the American people want from Congress, he left one thing out: They also want their government to solve problems, even if that sometimes requires an uncomfortable dose of compromise. They aren’t seeing much of that from the House of Representatives this year.

— Doyle McManus is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times. His email address is


George Lippencott 6 months, 3 weeks ago

JAFS is quiet. Perhaps he can not support all the assertions he has made.

The reality is that the current Democratic platform will devastate (double the taxes and cut the benefits on) the upper half of the middle class if it is implemented (55K to about 170K). That is why the President is falling short in the eyes of his followers .

It is so easy to opine on the LJW blog that something should be done for somebody who is hurting. It is an entirely different thing to actual designate who is to pay for whatever largess is desired.

Hiding behind the liberal mantra of taxing the rich is serious dissembling. If we took all of their income we would still have a shortfall in our annual expenditures.

We need to focus on the truly vulnerable while accepting the judgement of nature that some people will not make it to the upper half of the middle class (about half).

Sure we can and should try to address the imbalance in income in this country but not by taking from those who are just a little ahead but from those who make obscene amounts - not because that will solve our deficit but because it is right.

We should not be subsidizing people at the mid-range of income or those at 4 times the poverty level (150% of the middle family income)

Democrats it is time you made your leaders better explain as to how they intend to do all they claim they want to do. Have you ever actually looked at the party platform? Good starting point.


Richard Heckler 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The medical insurance industry does NOT provide health care yet has been allowed for many many decades to launder health care dollars for a profit.

Why are consumers forced into the medical insurance industry?

Let's Compare: Single-Payer (HR 676 and S 703) Expanded Medicare for All Vs. Proposed Healthcare “Private insurance with Public Option” ( very interesting findings) Physicians for a National Health Program

IMPROVED Medicare Single Payer Insurance for ALL would cover every person for all necessary medical care 24/7 to include:

Wellness /prescription drugs / hospital / surgical / outpatient services / primary and preventive care / emergency services / dental / mental health / home health / physical therapy / rehabilitation (including for substance abuse) / vision care / hearing services including hearing aids / chiropractic / medical equipment / palliative care / long term care

No deductibles / No Co-pays


George Lippencott 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder exactly who is out of touch with what. On Obama Care the polls show that a majority (small) disapproves. An overwhelming percentage of Democrats favor it while an overwhelming percent of Republicans oppose. The moderates are split. Perhaps the author should check to see how diverse his friends really are.

Now on shutting down the government – a substantial number of the populace does not want to do so – that includes Republicans. As near as I can tell only a vocal few Republicans in Congress want to shut it down. They are being granted their day and then I suspect (hope) we will move on. Is this piece news or propaganda.


Armstrong 6 months, 3 weeks ago

And you voted for this - "Medical Excise Tax on Retail Receipt. This is an image of a sales receipt from Cabela's, a popular sporting goods store.The 2.3% Medical Excise Tax that began on January 1st is supposed to be "hidden" from the consumer,but it's been brought to the public's attention by hunting and fishing store Cabela's who have refused to hide it and are showing it as a separate line item tax on their receipts, the email states. I did some research and found directly from the IRS's website information that PROVES this to be true and an accurate portrayal of something hidden in "Obamacare" that I was not aware of! Now being skeptical of this I went to the IRS website and found this! Q1. What is the medical device excise tax? A1. Section 4191 of the Internal Revenue Code imposes an excise tax on the sale of certain medical devices by the manufacturer or importer of the device. Q2. When does the tax go into effect? A2. The tax applies to sales of taxable medical devices after Dec. 31, 2012. Q3. How much is the tax? A3. The tax is 2.3 percent of the sale price of the taxable medical device. See Chapter 5 of IRS Publication 510, Excise Taxes, and Notice 2012-77 for additional information on the determination of sale price. So being more curious I clicked on "Chapter 5 of IRS Publication 510." And what do I find under "MEDICAL DEVICES" under "MANUFACTURERS TAXES"? The following discussion of manufacturers taxes applies to the tax on: Guns and amo; Sport fishing equipment; Fishing rods and fishing poles; Electric outboard motors; Fishing tackle boxes; Bows, quivers, broadheads, and points; Arrow shafts; Coal; Taxable tires; Gas guzzler automobiles; and Vaccines. I think we have definitely been fooled, if we believe that the Affordable Care Act is all about health care. It truly does appear to be nothing more than a bill laden with a whole lot of taxes that we the people have yet to be aware of. Please pass this on . I am still incredulous that this can go on .Where is our press ? I guess it’s just like Nancy Pelosi said…….We have to pass it to see what is in it . What is next? What else is there we do not know about? I am sick to death about our government"


FarleyM 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Obamacare is about the money in the Insurance industry. The government wants that money. They want the control of that money. Single payer is the end game. Complete control of the money.

Obamacare is not about healthcare. Healthcare is the sell.

If it were about healthcare, why are healthcare centers like the Cleveland Clinic cutting staff? Why are doctors calling it quits? Why are nurses doing abortions in California?

Where is the focus on healthcare?


Groenhagen2013 6 months, 3 weeks ago

"Most people in the nation have no idea about Obamacare. The only negative information is coming from the rt wing GOP party, medical insurance industry and right wing think tanks such as the Chamber of Commerce."

Consider this:

"Bottom line: Let's delay and rewrite this ill-conceived law. Congress need not start from scratch. Lawmakers can build on what all of us have learned from three years of painful trial and error. Three years of attempting, but failing, to make this clumsy monstrosity work for the American people."

That's from the Chicago Tribune, Obama the Unready's hometown newspaper. You claim that the negative information about Obamacare comes from the "rt wing GOP party, medical insurance industry and right wing think tanks such as the Chamber of Commerce." In which of those categories does the Tribune belong?


Groenhagen2013 6 months, 3 weeks ago

"Polls show that most Americans are, not surprisingly, divided."

Aren't the vast majority of polls "divided." In the case of Obamacare, the polls have always shown that either a plurality or majority of Americans oppose Obamacare. A majority also supports shutting down the government until funding for Obamacare is cut.

"So why are Republican lawmakers hearing a different message? Because most of them represent districts so conservative that they are listening only to their own choir."

In other words, they are representing those who sent them to Washington. Horrors! The messages they are hearing, and this is not just from their own districts, is that people don't like the train wreck known as Obamacare and that Americans want Obamacare defunded even if that risks a government shutdown, which, of course, could only happen if the Democrats and Obama the Unready fail to respond to the wishes of most Americans.


Richard Heckler 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Most people in the nation have no idea about Obamacare. The only negative information is coming from the rt wing GOP party, medical insurance industry and right wing think tanks such as the Chamber of Commerce.

The news media is failing to meet the needs of the people because the media does not effectively advise readers that most of what the press is putting in print is not backed by hard evidence.

BTW the Chamber of Commerce has been reduced to a PAC for the ALEC Right Wing Party. I am amazed the law allows this group to retain the name "Chamber of Commerce" since it has become nothing more than a money laundering mechanism and misinformation source.

It is simply stunning that the USA people do not demand hard evidence yet still believe politicians who receive campaign money from corporate sources.


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