We all talk about having good government. We agree that we have a responsibility to good government. Though we may have different ideas about what government should do, there is little argument over the qualities good government should exhibit.
Unfortunately, good government is not what has been on display in Congress over the last few months. In their desperation to abolish the Affortable Care Act, the GOP-controlled Congress has grown increasingly anxious to get something passed. They are desperate to show America that they can win something, despite the consequences, and are growing increasingly frantic to prove that they can get things done.
In attempting to show themselves capable of action, they have thrown out the processes many consider to be essential to good government: long-range planning, thoughtful and complete debate, public transparency, listening to people in the field, gaining bipartisan support and most importantly, taking the time to use all of the above to craft sound legislation.
We can all probably agree that health care in America could be improved, but instead of taking the time to fix the current system with a “Repair and Refine” approach, the Senate is engaged in a scorched-earth campaign of “Repeal and Replace” ignoring the rules of good government.
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Their “No Democrats allowed!” policy has resulted in a highly partisan and divisive bill rather than the moderate and thoughtful legislation it could have been. As such, public support for this effort continues to sink lower and lower.
Is this good government?
We don’t need a new health care bill nearly as much as we need good and thoughtful government. In fact, we don’t need anything as much as we need good government, because it is only through good government that we will get the rest.
Sen. John Hoeven, Rep. Kevin Cramer and the rest of Congress need to understand that we will not stand for these examples of sloppy, shortsighted leadership. If they want to change health care coverage in America, then it needs to be done the right way: with hearings, with debate and with input from all stakeholders. It may take years, but with an issue as important as health care, we are far better off waiting for good legislation than dealing with the fallout of poorly-crafted legislation now.
Congress needs to take the health care bill back and start over and do it right this time. They need to put their responsibility to govern over their need to win. They need to work to build public trust and support, and perhaps after truly doing the work of good government, we will see real improvements to health care in America.
Waylon Hedegaard is president-secretary of the North Dakota AFL-CIO.