Hurrah for Thursday’s overwhelming U.S. Senate confirmation of West Virginia native Sylvia Mathews Burwell as America’s new Health and Human Services secretary. The 78-17 vote wasn’t just a proud moment for the Mountain State, it also was evidence that Republicans are retreating from their fanatical hostility to President Obama’s historic medical insurance reform.
Burwell will be chief operator of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which is designed to provide health coverage to 30 million more “working poor” Americans. Republicans have fought the humanitarian ACA as if it was a scheme by Satan. Various GOP leaders called for defeat of Burwell as a way to attack this expansion of the U.S. safety net.
Right-wing Fox News said “the Burwell nomination poses opportunities for Senate Republicans who want to combat Obamacare head-on.” It noted that a single GOP senator could place a “hold” on her confirmation and derail it. But it didn’t happen.
“Until the president agrees to offer meaningful relief to the millions of people hurt by Obamacare, we should not confirm this nominee,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, declared. But most senators ignored the far-right zealot.
So far, the ACA is a success. More than 8 million Americans have purchased coverage through government exchanges, and perhaps 5 million more gained care through expanded Medicaid (although numerous Republican governors and state legislatures refused to expand the low-income insurance plan). These numbers are expected to keep rising dramatically.
GOP opposition to ACA health insurance is a replay of past battles: Over the decades, Republicans tried to defeat Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and other safety net provisions — but they lost and retreated, time after time. In coming months, we predict they will likewise abandon their shrill resistance to universal care, which is gaining more public popularity.
However, some West Virginia Republicans still demand repeal of the ACA. Former Maryland GOP chairman Alex Mooney — who oddly won nomination to represent Charleston and mid-West Virginia in Congress — told reporter David Gutman he’s strong for repeal.
Why on earth is he eager to deny health coverage to 30 million Americans?
Around America, other GOP figures are backing away from previous opposition. The Washington Post said few Republican campaigners still declare in 2014 ads that they will wipe out Obamacare. “Surveys consistently find fewer than four in 10 [Americans] want to repeal the law, while about six in 10 prefer making changes or improvements in the current framework,” it said.
As we’ve said before, health care should be a human right for all Americans, as it is in most modern democracies. Progressive leaders shouldn’t stop until complete universal coverage is assured.