For pure political expedience, one would be hard-pressed to top the example set by Sixth District Congressman Bill “Newt” Cassidy (R-Louisiana).
Cassidy was among those House members who sold their souls by voting with the Tea Party on its crusade to overturn the Affordable Health Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.
And let’s not give Gov. Bobby Jindal a pass on this, either. While he had nothing to do with the action—or inaction—of Congress, he has remained strangely quiet on the shutdown of the federal government, a move that will adversely affect countless numbers of federal employees, social security applicants and disability recipients, to name just a few.
Even Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, had the decency to at least issue a public statement, saying, “The inability of Congress to do its most basic job will put many Arkansans out of work and leave Arkansas children in peril.
“…It will greatly hinder the ability of the Arkansas Department of Human Services to investigate claims of child abuse and neglect,” he said. “More than 85,000 meals for Arkansas children will not be provided and protection for nursing home residents will be reduced.”
In addition, he said 2,000 newborn babies “will not receive infant formula through the Department of Health’s WIC program. That number includes more than 300 special-needs babies who soon run out of special formula they can only receive through a certified program like WIC.”
Beebe said as many as 2,000 state employees will be furloughed and if the shutdown is sustained, that number could be much larger. “It also hurts our local and state economies (and) that economic damage will be compounded by the furlough of federal employees in Arkansas, as well.”
Jindal, meanwhile remains mute. Except, that is, when the federal government happens to step on his delicate toes as with the litigation that has thrown a monkey wrench into his school voucher plan. Oh, can he wail and whine when his own agenda is threatened. But when the Tea Party-Cassidy crowd throws the metaphoric pie in the face of Obama, he remains mute.
Even when the collateral damage of that juvenile pie-throwing tantrum adversely impacts millions upon millions of American families, he remains mute.
Where is our state leadership? Shouldn’t Jindal, as with his counterpart in Arkansas, at least be paying lip service to the potential suffering of Louisiana citizens? Instead, he chooses to ignore the shutdown in much the same manner that he ignored that expanding Bayou Corne sinkhole in Assumption Parish.
But we digress.
Let us return to Cassidy, who, with his strategy, may have just given U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu the momentum she needs to withstand his challenge in 2014.
That’s right. Cassidy’s behavior with ObamaCare can best be described as pandering to everything anti-Obama. While somewhat short of grandstanding, his actions are certainly of an ulterior, self-serving motive.
It ain’t pretty when you are so blatantly hypocritical.
It’s not that we’re giving the rest of the state’s Republican congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. David Vitter a pass, either. They are complicit in this mess as well.
But we have a special reason for singling out Cassidy.
Let’s flash back to 2007, his freshman year in the Louisiana Senate. He won the seat in a special election in 2006 to succeed former Sen. Jay Dardenne who had been elected Secretary of State. (Darden is now Lieutenant Governor and has voiced his intention to run for Governor in 2015.)
The year 2007 is important in the brief political career of Cassidy. That was the year he introduced Senate Bill 307 http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=427610&n=SB307
And just what was SB 307?
While not nearly as voluminous as the Affordable Health Care Act passed by Congress, SB 307 (all of 22 pages) would have created the Louisiana Health Insurance Exchange and the Office of the Louisiana Health Insurance Exchange within the Department of Insurance.
The intent of SB 307 was to allow individuals to shop for the best insurance plan for them and at the same time would have offset the cost of health insurance premiums for Louisiana’s low-income citizens by providing tax credits (Jindal’s gift of choice for business and industry) in order to make their insurance more affordable.
Cassidy said at the time the intent of his bill was to create a statewide Health Insurance Exchange to lower premiums and administrative costs and to allow flexibility in which benefits workers might choose.
He also said his plan would allow for the portability of health insurance, thus allowing workers to keep their insurance if they switched jobs—all while emphasizing public health and preventative care as a means of lowering overall health care costs.
In other words, what Cassidy, a physician, was proposing was passage of the state version of Obama Care—before many people had ever heard of Barack Obama, then still a freshman U.S. Senator from Illinois and still considered a long shot at defeating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The merits—or lack thereof—of ObamaCare aside, suffice it to say that Cassidy was a supporter of the concept long before the idea made its way into the national debate.
So what changed between then and now?
Political expediency—nothing more, nothing less. There was nothing ideological about it. Principles never once entered into the equation.
Mary Landrieu, the incumbent whom Cassidy is challenging, voted for ObamaCare.
Accordingly, if he is running against her, he must attack at her most vulnerable point: the politically and emotionally charged issue of Obamacare.
But never forget that like John Kerry, who was for the Iraq war before he was against it, Cassidy was for ObamaCare before he was against it—when it was CassidyCare.