Sanity Fair

Pop Goes the Weasel

Representative Dan Maffei

Maffei votes with the Tea Party, then tries to explain it away

The English language has survived Yogi Berra, George W. Bush and Twitter. In Dan Maffei, the language of Shakespeare might have met its match.

Last week, as Maffei sought to explain why he joined with congressional Tea Party Republicans on a vote that preceded the government shutdown, the mother tongue was tortured and twisted beyond recognition, perhaps to the point of breaking. Among the many elaborate reconstructions of reality evident in Maffei’s statement this week regarding his vote in favor of the “Fairness for American Families Act” (ouch) there was this particularly odious fallacy:

“I strongly oppose and have voted against Republican plans to permanently or temporarily defund the Affordable Care Act.”

Maffei should know better. I think he does know better. He voted, along with those he calls “a handful of partisan ideologues,” to delay the implementation of a core portion of the Affordable Care Act: the requirement that almost all of us buy health care insurance or else kick in a fine to the government. That provision was upheld in June by the U.S. Supreme Court and is set to go into effect.

In his statement after the vote, Maffei seemed especially eager for us to understand that his vote to postpone the individual mandate was not the same as a vote to “defund” the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Except that it is. If you follow the logic of Obamacare, the “pay or play” provision of the law is what makes it work. Obamacare, as the president and the Democrats insisted all along, is a package deal. It works only if you get more people into the insurance pool. You get the young healthy folks to buy insurance (or pay the penalty) and you forbid the insurance companies from denying coverage or kicking the older or less-healthy folks out of the pool just as they get sick.

If the uninsured can wait a year to sign up, you’re defunding the Affordable Care Act by taking those dollars out of the system. It’s not ideology, it’s math. That’s why the insurance companies backed the law; they need the dollars of the “young invincibles” to help them pay for care for those who are no longer young or who do not consider themselves invincible.

“Working families. . . should have the same opportunity to receive the extension as Wal-Mart, Bank of America and other big businesses.”

Maffei defends the delay by saying that it’s only fair. The administration gave companies an extra year to comply, so (in his words) “Working families. . . should have the same opportunity to receive the extension as Wal-Mart, Bank of America and other big businesses.” (Bank of America, it should be noted, already offers health care to its employees.)

Again, the tortured language leads us far from the truth. The mandate for businesses was delayed because all parties agreed that there weren’t systems yet in place to do it effectively and that a year would give time to make it work more smoothly. By contrast, the exchanges that made compliance with the individual mandate possible were ready to launch on Oct. 1, just hours after Maffei and the Tea Party tried to vote them into irrelevance.

Can it be that there are enough Tea Party votes to be gained in the western end of the 24th Congressional District that Maffei is willing to indulge in such deceptions or delusions? For the record, he and his remaining “essential staff” have gone to great lengths to explain that his vote was also a way to reach across the aisle and create a bipartisan consensus on the budget.

He must know better. Has he already forgotten Ann Marie Buerkle?

Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary every week in the Syracuse New Times.You can reach him at [email protected].

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