Any Chance for Reasonableness?

There’s even more furor and confusion than usual in Washington, as the House, Senate and White House struggle over the passage of budget bills, raising the national debt limit, funding for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and government shut-downs.  But something important is being overlooked — the continuing threats to the conscience rights of individuals and institutions in the Affordable Care Act and the regulations that are implementing it (including the HHS contraception/abortifacient mandate).

In a normal, functioning governmental system, important public policy measures are introduced as individual bills, public input is obtained through hearings, and the measure is openly debated by legislators.  Since we no longer appear to have such a system of government, important policy issues are tacked onto spending bills, and our government leaders rely on confrontational strategies and parliamentary gamesmanship to bend others to their will.

Lost in all of this is that crucial constitutional and natural rights are being threatened, and legislative action is needed to provide necessary protection for those rights.

One such proposal is to delay the implementation of the HHS mandate.  The Administration has already granted numerous waivers, delays, exemptions, and grace periods for various provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  What we would like to see is for Congress to vote to delay the implementation of the HHS mandate for one full year, which would give the Supreme Court time to decide some of the cases challenging the mandate.  In essence, all we are asking is that Congress put the controversy on hold, out of respect for the seriousness  of the constitutional rights at stake.

The House has already passed a continuing budget resolution that included that provision, but the Senate has rejected it.  We hope that a more conciliatory, reasonable approach will prevail, and that this common-sense measure would be accepted.

We also hope that genuine conscience protection legislation would be considered by Congress.  For example, the USCCB is advocating with Congress to include the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (which would provide broad protection for religious liberty among health care workers and institutions).   The bishops have also been pressing for legislation to address the specific conscience problems presented by the HHS mandate.

The situation in Washington is extremely frustrating, and it is difficult to see a solution to the partisan gridlock.  All we are asking is for some breakthrough of reasonableness, so that precious liberties aren’t lost in the process.

That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

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6 Responses to “Any Chance for Reasonableness?”

  1. Dottie Day says:

    We haven’t had a normal functioning government system since January 2009. The days of legislation being openly debated by Congress are over. The Affordable Care Act effort set the gold standard for how business is done in Washington — behind-closed-doors. Most recently demonstrated in the Obamacare Congressional exemptions and subsidies.

    What you call partisan gridlock is a cover story for the deals made behind closed doors. Our President has made it very clear that he finds the Constitution lacking and the two party system a thorn in his side. There is no solution while this Administration goes unchecked. Only Divine Providence can stop this kind of force.

  2. Ed Mechmann says:

    It is sad to see that Washington is increasingly becoming like Albany — a dysfunctional parody of real democracy.

  3. Bob Kelly says:

    The Bishops should support reopening government agencies without legislation delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The Members of Congress who will not allow the government to operate unless the ACA is delayed are not proposing to fix flaws in the Act, but only want to prevent its implementation.

    Stopping the ACA will prevent the expansion of health insurance to 25 million Americans who do not have access to health care or can’t afford insurance. Given that having health insurance is the gateway to getting efficient medical care in our country, our Bishops should be supporting efforts to end the government shutdown without conditions that are intended to cripple the Affordable Care Act.

  4. Ed Mechmann says:

    The USCCB did send a letter to Congress, and put out an action alert to its email network, calling for the passage of spending bills that would funding government programs that combat poverty.

  5. Bob Kelly says:

    Hi, Ed,
    I appreciate the Bishops’ call for protection of the poor, thanks for pointing out the action alert.

    The reasonable action, especially since it’s been over week of locking out federal employees like me, is for Congress to pass a simple continuing resolution to get us back to work, and for an increase in the debt ceiling to fund the spending Congress has already agreed to fund.

    Closing government services unless some Members of Congress are allowed to cripple the Affordable Care Act (which is not the Bishops’ position as I understand it) is not a proportional response to issues with the ACA.


  6. Ed Mechmann says:

    I agree. This notion of trying to make major policy decisions by holding a “must pass” funding bill hostage is a very poor way of carrying out the business of governing.