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Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 12:00 am

Rodney Davis warns of disaster

The congressman confronts complexity, and gets confused

13th District congressman Rodney Davis.


Usually, when I read Mad-Hatteresque pronouncements from members of the Republican caucus of the U.S. House, I am reminded of the works of Lewis Carroll. Reading the remarks by 13th District congressman Rodney Davis during his recent campaign announcement tour, I thought instead of James Fenimore Cooper.

As Mark Twain complained in a now-famous essay, Cooper managed to score 114 offenses against literary art out of a possible 115 in a mere two-thirds of a page in Deerslayer. Davis’s remarks might have bested Cooper’s record. The many offenses he committed against fact, against fairness and against frankness might set a new mark even for members of Congress.

Davis took pains to remind anyone listening that he voted with his House GOP colleagues to continue government operations only if the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is known to those who can’t make themselves speak the word “affordable,” is defunded. That funding bill (actually a Continuing Resolution) had no chance of being agreed to by the Senate, as we have seen. The choice the GOP thus offered the people was either shutting down the government or denying millions of poor and working Americans affordable health insurance.

Davis and his party insisted that defunding was the best way to avoid a shutdown that looms only because his party is demanding it as the price for not defunding. This is what he described as “our vision for America.” Except that his party’s vision for America is not America’s vision for America, it being a country in which the health care law is supported by a substantial majority of the admittedly substantial minority of the public at large who actually knows what it does.

Davis is clearly not eager to cast light into the darkness in which his constituents dwell. “Obamacare’s a disaster,” he said. Readers of a certain age know that the Republican right are not reliable analysts of government health care programs. The sainted Ronald Reagan used to tour the country in the 1960s warning that the new Medicare program – signed five years before Davis was born – would surely lead America to a socialist dictatorship.

Why a man clever enough to foretell the future – Obamacare, remember, is only now beginning to be fully implemented – is living in Taylorville is a question I will leave to Bernie Schoenburg to answer. I can’t foretell the future, but I know the recent past, and the law already is protecting people with pre-existing conditions, saving old people money on prescription drugs and bending the health-care cost curve downward without compromises in coverage, even though its provisions are only partly in force.

Davis added, “An overwhelming majority don’t approve of the way it’s being implemented.” I don’t either, but the fact it is being implemented at all is a wonder, given how hard Republicans in Congress and in GOP-controlled states have worked to sabotage the program. Illinois, for instance, is running a little late in setting up the state health insurance exchange in Illinois that is a key part of the program because members of Davis’s party in the General Assembly balked at funding it.

Davis said that he and his family will have to go to a health-care exchange to buy insurance under the new law. He refers to Get Covered Illinois, a website where individuals, families and small businesses who don’t have insurance will be able to compare health care plans and costs and sign up for coverage of their choice. Davis complained that his wife, a cancer survivor, might not be able to keep her favorite doctor under a new plan. I appreciate his annoyance; the only relationship that Republicans regard as more sacrosanct than that between patient and doctor is that between the Republican Party and the AMA. But there are worse things than not keeping your favorite doctor; the plans available through the exchanges are aimed at people who have no favorite doctor, indeed no doctor at all.

Davis can’t blame his family’s dilemma on Obamacare. Like every federal employee, members of Congress and their families are covered by their own insurance program, and Obamacare does not affect people who have insurance. But one of Davis’s party, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, proposed an amendment to the original ACA to force members of Congress out of the federal system and into exchanges. Grassley apparently assumed that Democrats would refuse, thus giving Republicans a chance to complain how the Democrats had callously exempted themselves from the law that never applied to them in the first place.

I suppose you could say that the Democrats who indulged Grassley should have known that he was kidding, but, jeez, with Republicans like Davis, sometimes it’s really hard to tell.  

Contact James Krohe Jr. at krojr@comcast.net.

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