Letter to Congressman Rob Wittman (R, VA-1)
Reprinted with permission of the author
Congressman Wittman,I don’t know if I should thank you or not for sending me the link to the House Bill everyone is talking about. I would be lying if I said that I “read” it in the sense that I went through it and understood all the words on the page. Because 93.6% of the words are references to other laws and regulations, one could not possibly “read” it and have a clear understanding of the real meaning of the Bill without a law library and a couple of uninterrupted months to work with. If I, with a Master’s Degree in Economics and the patience to devote a couple of hours to wander through all 123 pages looking for nuggets of clarity, could not come away with a good idea of what is being pushed by GOP “leadership” in the House, Senate, and White House, then I submit that very few Americans will be able to do much better. All American citizens, however, have earned the right to be very skeptical of life-altering and national culture-altering legislation being offered as a take-it-or-leave-it, don’t-ask-tough-questions, my-way-or-the-highway proposition.
When the decision was made to not repeal the ACA, but rather to amend it, there probably was no way to simplify the legislation other than to make constant references to the law being amended. Speaker Ryan has tried in part to defend this effort by saying that the House has been working on this legislation for more than six months and that it should come as no surprise to anyone. I find this hard to believe, since I have been closely involved in the debate over what should be in a “Replace” part of the Repeal and Replace effort that has been promised ever since 2010. I simply refuse to believe that this is the best that a couple of hundred GOP Congressmen and Senators and their staffs could come up with given the time and resources that were or should have been put into it.
With that as background, here are a couple of questions and suggestions:
Question 1: The original ACA was passed in its entirety under budget reconciliation, yet we are told that many parts of it cannot be repealed using that tool. Could you explain the disconnect? Something about that statement doesn’t seem to make sense to a dumb, old farm boy like me.
Suggestion 1: Given that the legislation itself has to be written in extreme legalese and bureaucratese, why not put out a companion piece that would explain in layman’s terms the rationale and practical meaning of each section of the Bill. Every person voting on or advising anyone voting on this Bill should have to sign a statement confirming that they understand the Bill and its ramifications.
Suggestion 2: The original ACA should be referenced to show, paragraph by paragraph, what has been repealed and what has been amended and what remains unchanged as a result of this legislation. Several people and organizations have devoted many thousands of man-hours to accepting Nancy Peolsi’s challenge to understanding the ACA after it was passed. We owe it to them to not have to re-understand it in the light of this massive, partial revision.
Finally, in your own criteria for evaluating what will be the most significant Bill you will vote on this year, and probably, your career, you did not reference at all the concept of free market economics. Without this as a cornerstone principle for those who call themselves conservative Republicans, I have very little confidence that it will be a prime motivator for those who use the label Republican for convenience rather than principle.
I sincerely hope that you and your staff are taking advantage of the work done by Virginians for Quality Healthcare, as well as other groups working for the long-term sustainability of our way of life.
Feel free to contact me with comments or questions.