Fighting, and losing, the battles of yesterday

Let me see if I have this right: Mitt Romney tells everybody who will stand still for a few minutes that he’s against the government giving away “free stuff.” He did it most recently Wednesday evening to an audience in Montana.

“But I hope people understand this, your friends who like ObamaCare, you remind them of this: If they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy – more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.”

But along comes a program – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – that will finally end the practice of giving free health care at emergency rooms to people who could otherwise afford insurance, and what do Romney and the Republicans want to do?

Repeal it, of course.

On Wednesday, the House voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the 33rd time they’ve voted to roll back all or part of the law. That’s not a crusade any longer, it’s a hobby.

Voting aye were Nevada Republican Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck. And while Heck may have temporarily forgotten, his colleagues would do well to ask the Army Reserves colonel about a philosophy they have over at the Pentagon: Don’t fight the last war. Fight the war you’re in now.

Instead, Republicans are insisting on fighting the war they fought and lost in 2010, when the health care law passed the Congress without a single Republican vote. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the measure last month, Republicans insist on holding votes which have absolutely no chance of passage to repeal a duly passed, constitutionally upheld act that will, by the way, assist millions of people in getting health care insurance who otherwise would have gone without.

But it doesn’t end there. The GOP is also fighting the war it lost in 1965, when Medicare was created as part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society. Modern Republicans are seeking to remake the program with a budget proffered by Rep. Paul Ryan. (That’s the budget, by the way, that Sen. Dean Heller voted for twice, once in the House and once after he was appointed to the U.S. Senate.)

And it doesn’t end there, either. Republicans are still fighting the war they lost in 1935, when Social Security was passed as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. While many people are striving to save the program from actuarial bankruptcy and extend it into the future, the preference of many Republicans is to privatize at least a portion of the system and invest its tax revenues in the stock market.

And it doesn’t even end there: A handful of Republicans are still fighting the battle lost in 1803, when the Supreme Court declared in Marbury v. Madison, “It is emphatically the province and the duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is.”

After the court ruled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be constitutional, albeit supported by a tax and not a “penalty,” it was Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul who declared, “Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional.”

Actually, senator, it was a five-member majority, and that’s exactly what makes it so.

As long as Republicans choose to fight these battles like so many Civil War re-enactments, hoping for a different result, they will lose.

The trouble is, the rest of us are an unwilling audience, and there are serious modern problems to solve. We should – all of us – get on with solving them.


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or

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