Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to write legislation. The Senate, traditionally, has done this with aplomb, earning the moniker “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” This is what the Founders hoped for — a group of imperfect people coming together to carefully hash out difficult questions. The Senate, for generations, has done this. It hasn’t always gotten legislation right, but it has tried.
The Obamacare legislative process in the Senate was by no means perfect. But in its first six months, it included 20 House hearings, 16 Senate hearings, five bipartisan meetings in the Senate and 200 expert witness testimonies. The substance of Obamacare clearly can’t be the last word on American health reform, but the legislative process was reasonably good.
At least, good compared with the Senate’s current Trumpcare process. During the first six months of the Trumpcare process, there were four House hearings, one Senate hearing, zero bipartisan meetings in the Senate and 18 expert witness testimonies.
Is this what the Founders were thinking of when they designed the world’s greatest deliberative body?
Would the Founders be particularly proud that the U.S. Senate is trying to reorganize one-sixth of the American economy after having just one hearing and speaking to only 18 experts?
This is to say nothing of the actual substance of the bill, which cuts Medicaid and gives the extra money to the wealthiest Americans. I understand this doesn’t bother Sens. Mike Lee or Orrin Hatch. Personally, I see it as a direct frontal attack on the sanctity of family — if tax cuts matter more than helping our poor or disabled siblings, where do we stand as a society?
But Lee and Hatch at least agree that an open and transparent process is better than a closed one — that’s how they talk about the Obamacare process. If the Obamacare process needed to be more open and transparent, as our senators say it did, surely they would agree that the supersecretive Trumpcare process should be as well.
It is entirely in their power to fix this. There are 52 Republicans in the Senate, so Republicans can only afford to lose two votes and still pass Trumpcare (Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tiebreaking vote).
If Utah’s senators wanted to take a stand for an open and transparent process — not just put out a toothless statement critiquing the process — they could simply make it clear they wouldn’t vote for any Trumpcare legislation that doesn’t have at least as many hearings, testimonies and witnesses as Obamacare did.
If they don’t, one must wonder about the sincerity of our senators’ anti-Obamacare critiques over the past seven years. What do they actually mean, and what are they just saying for partisan gain?
Utah deserves to be represented in Congress by pragmatic legislators, not partisan extremists. We voters are seeing the difference and its consequences and will vote accordingly in 2018.
Dr. Jeff Swift serves on the Board of the Alliance for a Better Utah and as policy director for the LDS Dems.