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Health care should not be the never-ending battle

As the government shutdown continues, perhaps for the foreseeable future, it’s important to remember how we got here.

Republicans lost.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, having not received even a single Republican vote in the Senate or House of Representatives. But passing the law wasn’t easy, and Republicans certainly didn’t lose out on any chances to block the measure.

But they lost.

After that, lawsuits were filed. (It’s the American way!) A total of 27 states sued to overturn the act, including Nevada. Every constitutional argument that could be mustered against the law was deployed, and arguments before justices were robust. But a 5-4 court majority upheld the law’s constitutionality on June 28, 2012.

Again, Republicans lost.

The ruling unfolded against a presidential campaign in which former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — who had spearheaded a remarkably similar health care law in his own state — promised he’d begin the repeal of “Obamacare” on Day One of his presidency, should he be afforded the job. But he was not: Despite his promise, Romney lost the election, 51 percent to 47 percent.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have been trying to defund, delay or otherwise defeat the vexing law, without success. There have been 42 attempts to derail all or part of the law, all of which have been defeated.

In other words, Republicans lost. Forty-two times.

So now, Republicans are refusing to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government — the whole government — unless and until Democrats and President Barack Obama agree to delay the law. (It should be noted that Obama himself has delayed implementing part of the law, including a mandate for employers to provide coverage for their employees.)

But having lost the fight against the Affordable Care Act in every branch of the U.S. government and at the ballot box, Republicans still want yet another do-over, another bite at the proverbial apple. And they resent Democrats for saying no.

Reached at his Senate office — where he personally spends about an hour every day taking calls during the shutdown — Nevada U.S. Sen. Dean Heller said he was disappointed Democrats were refusing to negotiate a reasonable solution to the shutdown standoff. “This is a poll-driven shutdown,” he said. (Heller said about half of the people who call him oppose the law, while the other half support it.)

Heller said he’s spoken with Democrats who would accept a “reasonable position” that includes funding the government, raising the debt ceiling and a one-year delay of the health care law.

But why should Democrats negotiate over the duly passed, court-upheld, election-tested, unamended law of the land? “I’m opposed to the law,” Heller said simply. And that’s the real answer: Republican opposition to the law motivates them to fight on, no matter how many times and in how many forums their efforts are rebuffed.

Much was made of a news conference on Wednesday at which CNN’s Dana Bash asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid why he wouldn’t give in to a Republican proposal to fund just the National Institutes of Health during the shutdown, given that agency’s important work. As if a hostage-taker should get credit for being reasonable if he allows police to send in a pizza for the victims, when he’s the one who put the gun to their heads in the first place?!

Perhaps someday, when we Americans finally enjoy the benefits of universal single-payer health care the same as the residents of most other industrialized nations, we’ll look back. We’ll tell a generation removed from these troubled times what it was like to witness the battle over the Affordable Care Act, and how American government shut down because one side believed in keeping the fight going, no matter how many times it was defeated.

And it all started because Republicans lost.

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

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