Editor’s note: This commentary is by Mark Donka, a police officer in Woodstock who was the Republican candidate against Peter Welch for U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. He is considering a run for the same seat in 2014. He lives in Hartford.
Three years ago, Congressman Peter Welch, as well as Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) commonly referred to as Obamacare. The bill, produced by the Obama administration, has over 2,800 pages and was not read by Congress before passage. Among the famous quotes associated with the act was one by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “We have to pass the (health care) bill so you can find out what is in it.”
And so it is with Peter Welch, who has continually praised this legislation despite its regulatory overreach, its complexity and its cost. Welch was not alone in his blind faith. He passed the ACA without a peek at the contents. The Senate voted 60-39 straight down party lines. The House voted 219-212, with all House Republicans along with 34 House Democrats voting against it. Not a single Republican voted for the act in either house of Congress.
Fast forward to 2013: The American public, including Vermonters, are getting a taste of what’s in it; there are mandates and deadlines to sign up on websites that don’t work; there are health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket increases. Some cancer centers won’t accept exchange coverage. And now, security breaches and identity theft risks are on the short list of serious problems.
When it was clear how flawed the ACA rollout had become, Welch lauded the president for enacting the same delay suggested by the House Republicans just weeks earlier.
Recently, Welch had an opportunity to support the solutions to the problems presented by this law, but did not. Welch voted against the Upton bill, which would allow 5 million Americans (including thousands of Vermonters with Medicare supplemental policies) who received a cancellation notice to keep their existing health care plan. Interestingly, 39 House Democrats supported the Upton bill.
Prior to the Upton bill, there were opportunities to pass continuing resolutions for the federal budget. These resolutions originated in the House and had provisions to delay the implementation of the ACA-Obamacare for one year. Mr. Welch did not support any of the resolutions. Afterwards, he blamed the GOP for the government shutdown. When it was clear how flawed the ACA rollout had become, Welch lauded the president for enacting the same delay suggested by the House Republicans just weeks earlier. Mr. Welch, and others, who voted against the continuing resolutions, were the real culprits in the government shutdown — and hypocrites to boot.
The Obamacare program, including Vermont Health Connect, is failing. Despite these problems, the Obama and Shumlin administrations continue to make promises they cannot keep. Promises of being able to keep your insurance or your doctor have become a cruel joke. Peter Welch’s punishing actions in Washington and his recent silence in the Vermont press on this issue reveal him not as a Democrat but as an Obama loyalist. Despite the harm that has come to his constituents, from his actions or inactions, he has demonstrated his commitment to serve the Oval Office, and not us.