If, as appears increasingly likely, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is going to undergo an overhaul, let history record the death blow was struck by former President Bill Clinton. That one of President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats would step into the front line of people calling for a reboot of ACA 1.0 is no surprise for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, Clinton worships the quicksand Obama walks on and the feeling is mutual. The bad blood Obama’s successful challenge to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign created endures. So it is understandable that Clinton decided to throw the drowning ACA an anvil in the form of his declaration that Obama should honor his now-infamous pledge that people with health care insurance they like could keep it.
Another reason Clinton’s words have traction is he was able to do something Obama so far hasn’t: work with Republicans in Congress to get something done. After the Democrats lost control of the U.S. House in 1994, Clinton cooperated with Speaker Newt Gingrich and other GOP leaders on budget and taxes and a welfare system overhaul. These measures helped spark an economic boom and the resulting surge in tax revenue that helped reduce the federal budget deficit, highlights of the Clinton presidency.
Obama and Democrats in Congress forced the ACA through without a single vote from House or Senate Republicans. That lack of bipartisanship, plus the federal government’s well-documented history of technological bungling, proved a recipe for diaster for the ACA. The question now is whether to toss it a lifeline or let it drown.