While we agree that the Affordable Care Act needs reform, we also believe that it needs to be done the right way, and we commend Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her actions this week in the U.S. Senate.
For those who have been out fishing all week and missed the news, Sen. Murkowski broke with Senate Republicans this week, first in voting against opening debate on bills to repeal or replace Obamacare to varying degrees. Despite being the subject of less than complimentary tweets from President Donald Trump, she also voted against all three proposals, including the “skinny” repeal, which failed when Sen. John McCain dramatically gave it a thumbs down in the early hours of Friday morning.
Sen. Murkowski has always been clear that Obamacare needs to be fixed — but she’s also always been clear in her belief that any legislation, especially a bill as far-reaching as health care reform, needs to go through the proper process. That means Senate committees have the opportunity to thoroughly vet a piece of legislation and offer amendments before it goes to the full Senate for debate, consideration of more amendments and, eventually, a vote.
With the legislation considered this past week, that was not the case. The GOP proposals were crafted behind closed doors by a small group of Senators.
Murkowski’s stance on the Senate process has been consistent. When Democrats controlled the chamber, she was a frequent critic of the way in which legislation was drafted. When Republicans gained a majority, she promised a return to the normal rules of order, and has frequently set an example by working with members of both parties on legislation important to Alaska.
Sen. Murkowski has received criticism from those who believe she should march in lock step with her party, ironic in a state that celebrates leaders with an independent streak.
Quite frankly, repeal solely for the sake of repeal is a solution that only makes the problem worse. There is plenty in the Affordable Care Act that needs to be improved — but there’s also parts that have helped many Alaskans.
In a statement released Friday, Sen. Murkowski said she would continue to work to improve the law.
“I voted no on the health care proposal last night because both sides must do better on process and substance,” Murkowski. “The Affordable Care Act remains a flawed law that I am committed to reforming with a structure that works better for all Americans. But to do that, the Senate must fully devote itself to an effort to improve the health care system in this country, reduce costs, increase access, and deliver the quality of care that our families want and deserve.”
We don’t believe for a minute that health care reform is a dead issue. With each failure comes a new opportunity, and the Senate now has a chance to craft a piece of legislation that does more than score a political victory — a bill that actually fixes a problem.