By State Representative, Leon D. Young
It’s no secret that Republicans are bent on advancing their conservative, right-wing agenda at any cost. Aided and abetted by oligarchical billionaires, like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers, the GOP is more than willing to follow the marching orders handed to them by their deep-pocket contributors.
To illustrate the point, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this week to hear a case that found Wisconsin Republicans had overreached in 2011 by drawing legislative districts that were so heavily skewed in their favor that they violated the U.S. Constitution. On its face, this would appear to be a positive development, in a case that’s being watched nationally.
The fact that the high court would consider whether partisan gerrymandering violates the constitutional rights of Wisconsin voters, potentially sets the stage for a ruling that could for the first time impose limits on a practice that has helped define American politics since the early days of its inception.
Moreover, the ultimate ruling could shift how legislative and congressional lines are drawn – and thus, who controls statehouses and Congress.
However, in a second order, the Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote blocked a requirement that Wisconsin draw new maps by November 1. This has led some legal experts to speculate how the court will ultimately rule in considering the merits of the case. While the Supreme Court has struck down voting districts as racial gerrymanders, it has never disallowed a legislative map because of partisan gerrymandering. And, it’s expected that the justices will likely hear arguments in October with a ruling being handed down between late 2017 and June 2018.
However, the GOP’s fixation with undermining the Democratic process is even more egregious inside the Beltway. As they draft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republican leaders are now in the process of transforming large sections of the American health care system without a single hearing on their bill and without a formal, open drafting session.
It’s impossible to imagine that Republicans have totally sequestered all 48 Democratic Senators from the legislative process. The secrecy surrounding the Senate measure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act appears to be remarkable – at least for a health care measure this consequential.
The Senate bill is likely to phase out the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which has provided medical coverage to 23 million uninsured Americans. In addition, the bill is expected to have larger tax credits to help older Americans buy health insurance. It should be noted that the legislation will be considered in the Senate under expedited procedure that precludes a Democratic filibuster and allows passage by a simple majority. (Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate.)
In retrospect, advancing one’s partisan agenda should never be the sole order of the day. It’s a sad and dangerous commentary that the GOP will go to any lengths to win – even if it means undermining the very tenets of our Democracy.