Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cruz Control

Senator Ted Cruz (From
Brian Williams on the NBC Nightly News last night warned viewers while reporting on Sen. Ted Cruz's "talkathon" on the U.S. Senate floor that he'd still be talking this morning for The Today Show.  Indeed.  He was.  The Today Show dutifully reported that fact, that Sen. Cruz had had some help from fellow Republicans, but that Republican leadership was not pleased.  I have to say, although not one of Sen. Cruz's constituents, I was not pleased, either.

My political party affiliation is "the independent thinkers in search of a return to working together to lead and govern in Congress" or otherwise vote the bums out.  Sen. Cruz of Texas has every right to stand up on the Senate floor and share his views on the Affordable Care Act or any other business before the Senate.  Oh, wait.  The ACA has already been signed into law, right? It's not the most pressing business before the Senate right now.  In fact, full implementation is only months away.  I begin shopping for my medical insurance at MNSure in a couple weeks, and I expect to be able to cut my premium costs in half as a result.  Sen. Cruz wants to defund the ACA and has attached his defunding measure onto the bill to fund the federal government and keep the lights on past October 1.  He's actually holding the federal government hostage!

Suddenly, I have an intense dislike for Sen. Cruz.  But not only him.  I dislike all those in the House and the Senate who want an extreme solution to a problem that could be handled in a much more gradual way, with leadership, courage and bipartisanship.  Especially when they mean to eliminate social programs that truly help people.  Like the ACA.

Students of American History might tell me that the federal government operates in cycles of more politics vs. less politics.  There's always politics going on -- the horse trading of "if you support my bill, I'll support yours" and the promises to help with campaigns along the way.  So, there are times when lawmakers seem to be motivated more by the common good and actually governing the country rather than whether they will stay in power or not.  That is the bottom line for our legislative branch, of course: governing vs. staying in power (winning re-election).  Various ideas about limiting the number of terms a Congressman or Senator can serve consecutively have floated around, at times caught up by a social wind of change or at other times dropping to the ground.  Other ideas about reforming campaign finance have done the same.  The problem is that Congress is in charge of reforming Congress...and politics always seem to get in the way.

When I hear lawmakers complain about the ACA, usually Republicans, and usually Tea Party Republicans, I wonder if they have really taken an in-depth look at the legislation or only the parts they didn't think of and can't take credit for.  I wonder where they received their education and how they think.  I wonder what their understanding of courage is.  In my mind, the last courageous person in Congress was Ted Kennedy, and before him, Paul Wellstone.  These were men who put governing ahead of politics (and they still kept their thumbs in the political pie) and had the courage to lead rather than follow...or crawl after the lobbyists and the money.

Is it courageous of Sen. Ted Cruz to do his talkathon essentially against legislation that will help millions of people and over the long term lower healthcare costs?  No.  Is he governing in any way?  No.  Does he like the sound of his own voice?  I'd say yes to that.  Anyone willing to talk for as long as he has must like his own voice.  Is he an active listener?  Not if he's talking all the time.  We need Congressional lawmakers who are adept at communication which means they are not only excellent speakers but also excellent listeners.  Thoughtful people.  Not knee-jerk politicos.

Full disclosure: I am one of those people who will benefit from the ACA.  I will be able to buy medical insurance that includes prescription drug coverage at a premium cost level that isn't my highest expense per month.  Do I want Congress to defund the ACA?  Hell no.  I'm tired of hearing about Republicans wasting time and energy trying to "kill" the law not because of financial reasons but because President Obama got it passed and signed it into law.  He succeeded when others before him failed.  Just because he's NOT a Republican....  And we're back to politics again.  

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