Congressman Rick Crawford has been clear on one thing since he began running for office in 2010 — he opposes health care reform touted by President Obama.
However, after three years in office, he and his colleagues have been unable to stop Obamacare from moving forward and is now asking Arkansas legislators for help.
Crawford’s inability to halt the program is not for lack of trying. The congressman and his fellow Republicans, along with a handful of Blue Dog Democrats, repeatedly have voted to repeal Obamacare. In March, they did it for the 39th time. It is safe to say he and like-minded congressmen will do all they can to put up a roadblock.
It’s also safe to say they’re losing and will continue to lose as long as Democrats control the Senate and White House. As a result, implementation of health care reform is forging ahead.
Based on his inability to stop progress, the congressman sent out a press release last week seeking assistance from the state Legislature. State lawmakers are grappling with some difficult aspects of dealing with the federal health care law, including whether to adopt a private-option plan to expand the Medicaid program to include those making up to 138 percent of the poverty line.
The private option — dubbed the Arkansas Plan — would expand the program through subsidized private insurance providers while reforming several aspects of the state’s Medicaid system.
Crawford is not impressed. Instead, he is asking state lawmakers to oppose the plan created through bipartisan support of Republican leaders in the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. He wants the Legislature to petition Congress to delay implementation of Obamacare.
“Arkansas state legislative leaders are doing their best to make lemonade out of lemons, and I applaud them for taking the initiative to cope with a bad situation. However, I feel the Arkansas Plan, which can only receive temporary approval at best, is destined to worsen the fiscal outlook for our state,” wrote Crawford. “Perhaps a better approach would be to petition Congress to delay ObamaCare for two or three years and ask the hard question — isn’t it the height of recklessness to add $1.3 trillion in new entitlement spending in the middle of a debt crisis?”
The message was not warmly received by several Republican legislators.
“Congressman Crawford may be correct, but he should have communicated his thoughts with Arkansas legislators and not the media,” Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, posted on his Twitter account.
“The U.S. Congress gave us Obamacare,” responded Republican House Speaker Davy Carter, who lives in Crawford’s district. “The Arkansas Legislature has led the fight against Obamacare and turned a losing hand into a winning one. A vote for the private option in Arkansas is a vote against Obamacare.”
I asked Crawford how realistic it was for Congress to delay the federal program. He said it was possible if Republicans unite and educate the public on the costs of moving forward.
“If we unite, I think there is a strong case to be made that momentum will shift in a major way,” Crawford said. “Democrats will be forced to defend speeding ahead with $1.3 trillion in new entitlement spending in the middle of a debt crisis. There are also two legitimate questions to ask any Democrat who supports cutting Social Security and Medicare as part of a grand bargain: Does it make sense to cut Social Security and Medicare while adding $1.3 trillion in new entitlement spending? Shouldn’t Obamacare spending be the first to get cut?”
Crawford’s belief is popular in his conservative district, where polls show most oppose the federal health care reform law. It will be interesting to see if that changes as benefits of health care reform are put in place. It likely will depend on whether individual Arkansans pay more or get more benefits.
Regardless, the Legislature’s decision over how to handle implementation may come down to whether they buy in to the notions that the program can still be stopped , as Crawford still believes, or whether they see the handwriting on the wall that Obamacare is here to stay. If the latter, it seems prudent to make sure Arkansas’ implementation is done in the most responsible way possible.
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Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com