In 1776, a group of leaders, from colonies in the new world to become known as “America”, met to discuss relationships with the mother country England. The leaders were not Americans but Englishmen.
The subject discussed was the drafting of a Declaration of Independence, dissolving the political ties that bound them to Great Britain. To some this was an act of treason. It would mean armed conflict with the most powerful nation of the time. Even within the colonies there was disagreement with the need to take such action.
The initial decision was made: No declaration would be issued unless there was unanimous agreement by all colonies. This one decision should have been enough to doom the effort. How could Massachusetts agree to terms put forth by Georgia. The New York delegation could not agree among themselves.
We know the result. Each representative and colony reconciled their issues for the benefit of the greater good. In signing the Declaration of Independence they pledged their lives and sacred honor.
Eleven years later, in 1787, our independence was won. The signers and other patriots experienced death, loss of financial fortunes, and separation from loved ones who stayed loyal to Britain.
FAST FORWARD 233 YEARS.
Sept. 17, 2009. A bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives, the “Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009”. The act was passed Oct. 8, 2009 and sent to the US Senate for approval. The Senate passed the bill, now known as “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” on Dec. 24, 2009. The vote to approve was with 60 votes by Democratic senators and 39 votes to disapprove, all by Republicans.
The House then agreed and on Mar. 21, 2010 by a vote of 219 to 212 approved the bill. The votes against came from 178 Republicans and 34 Democrats.
President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on Mar. 23, 2010.
SEVEN YEARS LATER.
May 4, 2017. As a response to the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” the US House of Representatives approved the “American Health Care Act” by a vote of 217 to 213. 20 Republicans voted against the bill. No Democrats voted in favor.
On July 17, 2017, the renamed “Better Care Reconciliation Act” was pulled from consideration by the US Senate. The bill could not have been passed. All Democrats and 4 Republicans were expected to vote against it.
The healthcare debate is not alone in demonstrating the inability of our elected officials to work together on important issues. Nor is it new, although it seems to be more difficult today than in the past.
Is it fair to compare representatives today to their colonial counterparts? Even if we do not expect decisions to be made only when there is 100% concurrence, is it too much to expect that votes will be more than along party lines?
To what extent are representatives required to follow the wishes of their party leadership? Is there fear of reprisal such as loss of committee positions or being denied campaign funds in future elections? How is it that not one Republican and not one Democrat senator voted in favor of the other party’s health care plan? To whom are representatives beholden, the country, their constituents or party leaders?
Our founding representatives gave their lives, property, honor and future to realize freedom and a representative form of government. Are we electing people today who are as committed to maintaining freedoms as defined in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the US Constitution? How recently have you read each document?