Robin Vos Eupdate: Vos Eupdate Takes a Break ~ May 27, 2010

Vos E-Update Takes a BreakState Law Prohibits Communication in Summer of Election Year

Dear E-Update Subscriber,

This week's legislative E-Update will be the last one you receive from me until after the fall election.  Wisconsin law prohibits legislators up for election from distributing 50 or more of any one substantially similar item after June 1 in an election year. That law includes the Vos E-Update.

My Capitol office will of course, still be open.  So if you have questions or want to express your views on an issue, please feel free to email me or call my office. 

Have a great summer and look for the next legislative edition of my E-Update at the end of the year.

 Healthy Debate Good for Democracy

As we head into the election season, there will no doubt be the national discussion of partisanship and why it seems so difficult for the two parties to come together on issues.

I recently read this opinion piece on partisanship by E.J. Dionne, Jr, and found it interesting. Dionne explains partisanship as not a mindless or futile action, but one more rooted in principle.  I've copied excerpts from the piece below for you to read:

Living with partisanship  

By E.J. Dionne Jr. Monday, March 1, 2010; A21   

The word "partisanship" is typically accompanied by the word "mindless." That's not simply insulting to partisans; it's also untrue.

If we learn nothing else in 2010, can we please finally acknowledge that our partisan divisions are about authentic principles that lead to very different approaches to governing?

Last week's health-care summit was a day-long seminar that should make it impossible for anyone to pretend otherwise -- and Republicans on the Sunday talk shows said yet again that they had no intention of making it any easier for President Obama to pass his health-reform plan.

At the health summit, the most revealing exchange was between the president and Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican who is also a physician. Barrasso's central concern is that the health-care system doesn't operate enough like every other market. He seemed troubled less by the many Americans who lack health insurance than by those who abuse the insurance they already have.

Addressing Obama, Barrasso suggested that we might be better off if people were insured only for catastrophic care. "Mr. President, when you say [people] with catastrophic plans, they don't go for care until later, I say sometimes the people with catastrophic plans are the people that are [the] best consumers of health care in . . . the way they use their health-care dollars."

"A lot of people" with insurance, he added, "come in and say, 'My knee hurts, maybe I should get an MRI,' they say. And then they say, 'Will my insurance cover it?' That's the first question. And if I say 'yes,' then they say, 'okay, let's do it.' If I say 'no,' then they say, 'Well, what will it . . . cost?' And 'What's it [going to] cost?' ought to be the first question. And that's why sometimes people with . . . catastrophic health plans ask the best questions, shop around, are the best consumers of health care."

Obama played the old TV character Columbo, who thrived on posing seemingly naive questions: "I just am curious. Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic care? Do you think we'd be better health-care purchasers?"

Barrasso answered in the affirmative, though he didn't propose that senators dump their present coverage. Obama came right back: "Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000 . . . because that's the reality for a lot of folks. . . . They don't fly into [the] Mayo [Clinic] and suddenly decide they're going to spend a couple million dollars on the absolute, best health care. They're folks who are left out."

Obama concluded: "We can debate whether or not we can afford to help them, but we shouldn't pretend somehow that they don't need help."

As neatly as anything I have seen, this exchange captured the philosophical and emotional difference between the two parties. Democrats on the whole believe in using government to correct the inequities and inefficiencies the market creates, while Republicans on the whole think market outcomes are almost always better than anything government can produce.

That's not cheap partisanship. It's a fundamental divide. The paradox is that our understanding of politics would be more realistic if we were less cynical and came to see the battle for what it really is.

Over the years, I've occasionally heard from voters who say they wish their elected officials could be more bipartisan.  I understand the want by some to see elected officials get along, and the thought that the constant arguing can't accomplish much. But like Dionne, it has been my experience that partisanship is rooted in principles. 

Further, it is a common misconception that bipartisanship means one party gets to drive the policies and the other party must go along to get along. Bipartisanship means that some people from EACH party must compromise on an agreed-upon result. I have not seen much in the way of compromise on the part of the party driving the policy.

I stand by my partisan principles, and I look forward to continuing these healthy debates with you after the election.

Thank you for taking part in the discussion.