When President Obama first took on health insurance reform, he made it clear he hoped to reach out across the aisle to produce a bipartisan plan. He even kicked off the health reform effort by bringing a wide array of folks from across the political spectrum to the White House to share ideas and find common ground.
For months, though, we've watched as opponents of health reform executed their self-professed strategy to "delay, define, and derail" reform.
And in the past few days their stunts and obstruction have reached a new low. On Saturday at midnight, money for the Department of Defense – including the money that funds our troops overseas – is set to run out. Thanks to Republican obstruction on health reform, the Senate delayed passing a bill to continue that funding. The bill includes, among other things:
- More than $100 billion operations and maintenance, and military personnel requirements for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to support preparations to continue withdrawal from Iraq.
- More than $23 billion for equipment used by our service members in Iraq and Afghanistan – including critical funds to accelerate the deployment of new mine-resistant vehicles
- More than $150 billion to increase readiness and training of our troops.
- Nearly $30 billion for health care for service members and their families.
- A 3.4% pay increase for our brave service men and women.
This is not a controversial bill – nearly 400 house members supported it and the vast majority of Republicans are expected to vote for it. It’s political gamesmanship at its worst.
The depth of the hypocrisy involved is stunning. Back in 2007, when Congress was debating how to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible close, many of these same folks launched blistering accusations about Democrats' commitment to our troops. Here are just a few of the things they said:
"Playing politics with the critical funding that our troops need now is political theater of the worst kind." – Sen. John Cornyn, [Press Release, 4/26/07]
"We have plenty of time and plenty of opportunity to have political debates... but it’s just unconscionable to me to tie the hands of the very troops that we all say we support." – Sen. John Cornyn, [Transcript, Senate Republican News Briefing, 4/10/07]
"Every day we don’t fund our troops is a day their ability to fight this war is weakened." – Sen. Mitch McConnell, [Press Release, 3/31/07]
"No way to treat the troops, and it is entirely inconsistent with [Senators’] expressions of support for the troops." – Sen. Mitch McConnell, [Congressional Record, 10/4/07]
"I don't understand this attitude of, ‘We can play with; we can risk the lives of these troops by waiting until the last possible minute to get the funding to them." – Sen. Jon Kyl, [FOX News Transcript, 4/10/07]
"Our obligation to those troops must transcend politics." – Sen. Jon Kyl, [Press Release, 11/8/07]
Now though, as we debate not foreign policy but health care, the Department of Defense funding can wait? Incredible.
We've been talking about fixing the broken health care system in this country for decades. Each day reform was delayed this year, an average of 15,000 Americans lost insurance. Since the last time heath reform failed, premiums have doubled and national health care expenditures have nearly tripled. The time for political games is over. Now it’s time to act.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communicaitons Director