Editorial October 6, 2017

TheWeekInCongress.com

Editorial

The road we’re on

It seems that presidents will always push through the most controversial issue in the first year of their first term. The reality is that there is usually some political damage done. The thinking is that come election time, at least three years away, the damage can be fixed and the administration can win a second term.

President Clinton pushed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in his first term and survived as it is that President Obama survived his healthcare initiative, although Supreme Court tests of the matter from states such as Florida dragged the issue on for some time.

What we have seen was the Presidential first term trial by fire carrying over into the 2010 congressional elections and that was a relatively new phenomena. Democrats ruled Congress for decades leaving the Republicans to put their president in office to face opposition from the legislature. That is what their strategy to get things done was based on.

Those were the old days. Now we have had two decades of one party or the other sweeping both branches of government and a populous that is either in cynical depression because their party is completely on the outside or swimming in arrogance if their party controls it all. It is no longer a matter of a cooperative strategy for the Minority, it is one of winning back the control and doing so using the strategy that worked  in 1994.

While we like to blame the parties it is us who they are responding to, so it is ‘we the people’ who are divided, all too willing to believe what is said of a bill because the information meets our expectations. From that perspective everything the Majority does is either good or evil, right or wrong, in the interest of getting the country on the right road or not.

Where will this road take us? What we have seen from Republicans for the past seven years was an unyielding effort to dispute all things Obama and to do so not by any logical or practical explanation of how a bill could be changed or what elements have risk, but by spewing out fear and loathing about the intentions of the party presenting the bills and how the bills demonstrate them.

What is missing from the strategy is any recognition that 8 years of the Republican party in control of the White House and the Hill left us in dire straits with no explanation of how things would be different if we had a them in charge again. Rather the strategy seems to be that if we are all awash in fear and anger over the Democrats (even if that on which we base our fear and anger isn’t accurate information) then we will vote in the conservative direction.

It is a natural phenomena to hunker down or reign in our hopes and dreams when feeling threatened and that is the road the we are on, but it is a road to nowhere because anger and fear cloud the senses, make reasoning a burden, and as the old saying goes, “If you’re going nowhere, any road will take you there.”

Medicare Begins

July 30, 1965
Medicare Signed into Law

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, to sign Medicare into law. His gesture drew attention to the 20 years it had taken Congress to enact government health insurance for senior citizens after Harry Truman had proposed it. In fact, Medicare’s history dated back even further.

Congress held its first hearings on government health insurance in 1916 during the Progressive Era. During the New Deal, health coverage became part of the deliberations over the Social Security program, but President Franklin Roosevelt decided it was better strategy to pass the old-age pension provisions first. In 1939 Senator Robert Wagner introduced national health legislation and held hearings, but the outbreak of World War II caused his bill to be shelved. It was not until after the war, in November 1945, that Harry Truman sent Congress the first comprehensive federal health insurance proposal. That bill went nowhere.

During Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency Congress enacted the Kerr-Mills bill for cases of “medical indigency,” to cover elderly individuals who needed help with their medical bills but who failed to qualify for welfare in their states. But reformers regarded Kerr-Mills as inadequate, given the rising number of elderly and rising cost of hospital care.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy made Medicare a legislative priority and recruited Clinton Anderson of New Mexico to manage his bill. Anderson, a pragmatic and effective legislator, had suffered frequent bouts of illness throughout his life. “Perhaps a man who has spent much of his life fighting off the effects of illness,” he once wrote, “acquires . . . an understanding of the importance of professional health care to all people.”

Though public opinion polls suggested strong support for the bill, Anderson faced powerful opponents including the House Ways and Means chairman, the American Medical Association, and Senate Finance Committee chairman Harry Byrd. The bill’s opponents prevailed, narrowly defeating the bill in 1962. It was reintroduced in 1963, and following Kennedy’s assassination, Anderson worked painstakingly to build solid, bipartisan Senate support. Under intense pressure Anderson’s own health faltered, forcing him to manage portions of the bill from a hospital bed at Walter Reed. In 1964 the House and Senate passed alternative versions of the bill but failed to resolve those differences in conference.

Lyndon Johnson’s long coattails in the 1964 presidential contest increased support for Medicare in both chambers of Congress. Anderson seized the moment, working closely with House members to expand the scope of the original bill. On July 27 and 28, 1965, the House and the Senate agreed to the conference report on the final bill, which offered a “three layer cake” of coverage: hospital insurance for the aged, physicians’ insurance for the elderly, and expanded federal assistance to supplement state medical payments for the poor. In recognition of Anderson’s efforts, President Johnson invited him to attend the Medicare signing ceremony in Independence, Missouri, with former President Harry Truman.

Courtesy Senate Clerk


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