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Chris Honoré: The way Republicans roll redux

It is difficult not to view all that is now taking place in Congress through the lens of the last election and wonder why the voters so overwhelmingly voted Republican. The electorate not only strengthened the conservatives’ majority in the House, they returned the Senate to the conservatives.

I often wonder what the Republicans would have to do going forward to cause the electorate to become thoroughly disenchanted with them as a party. Recall that this is the hostage-taking cohort that shut down the government in 2013 for 15 days because President Obama refused to retreat on the Affordable Care Act? It was an extraordinarily disruptive and costly tantrum. And, apparently, quickly forgotten.

Now consider what has taken place over what conservatives refer to as President Obama’s executive overreach regarding immigration.

First the backstory: In June of 2013, the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. The bill would bring them out of the shadows and halt record deportations that have separated countless families.

The Senate bill was then sent to the House, where it has been held in political purgatory ever since, because of more internal Republican machinations — differences between the Republican caucus, the tea party and mainstream members — than the actual merits of the bill. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has refused to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote, knowing that if he did it would surely win approval — an outcome rejected by his caucus and the tea party.

It has been almost two years since the Senate bill was passed. In the interim, President Obama has repeatedly called for the House to vote on comprehensive immigration reform. Finally, using his executive authority, the president took action to protect from deportation some 5 million undocumented residents residing in America. In essence, his action was an expanded attempt to prevent those parents of children born here — as well as children brought here (“Dreamers”) — from being deported. In other words, the intent, while admittedly temporary, is also a profoundly humane attempt by the president to stop what has been an egregiously harmful policy that has fractured families.

Though the House has steadfastly refused to address the Senate bill, the Republican membership is outraged at the executive actions taken by the president over immigration, insisting that he has exceeded his authority. And so, once again, using the hostage strategy that is reminiscent of 2013 (for which they paid no political price), conservative House members telegraphed over the past several weeks that they would refuse to fund Homeland Security (including all its ancillary departments) unless President Obama nullified his immigration executive order. The agency was slated to run out of funds by Saturday.

This brinksmanship style of Republican governance led to the last-minute passage in the House on Friday of a one-week Band-Aid, and it once again illustrates how the GOP rolls: dysfunctional and acrimonious. They want what they want regardless of the collateral damage. Does this not qualify as grounds for voting for the other team?

One other topic: At the risk of being redundant, some recent figures regarding enrollment in the Affordable Care Act were published in the New York Times. The context here is the fact that the House Republicans have repeatedly voted to repeal the Act (56 and counting).

According to the New York Times, there has been a huge drop in the number of uninsured — at least 13.4 million Americans have been added to the insurance rolls. More than 11 million people have signed up to buy insurance on the exchanges and almost 8 million have signed up outside the exchanges and upgraded what were decidedly substandard policies. Medicaid has also been expanded (though 22 predominantly Republican states have cravenly opted out).

Now here’s the rub: If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the most recent conservative challenge to ACA, many Americans now enrolled in Obamacare will be forced out, and many, once again, will find themselves back in emergency rooms, a place of last-resort care. Note: those attempting to send ACA into a death spiral have no alternative plan. Nothing. A fact that is morally reprehensible.

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.