This past week, 26 House Republicans, four short of a majority, made the claim that Speaker Mark Eves should recuse himself from advocating for and voting on the expansion of health care to tens of thousands of Maine residents. Their argument? It is a conflict for Eves to be employed by a health care provider that might get a few additional patients (as virtually all providers would) due to expanded coverage for everyone.
It is kind of like saying a teacher shouldn’t vote on legislation that would bring more families to Maine, because that means he might get more students. Or that a business owner shouldn’t vote to improve the economy, because she might get more customers. Or that a cop shouldn’t vote to make something illegal, because he or she might get to arrest more people.
Yes. I know. Absurd.
But then I got to thinking. Maybe Republicans are right. Maybe we should be using this heightened conflict of interest standard. With some of the policies Republicans have passed and defeated lately, this newly developed conflict clause surely could have prevented a lot of bad stuff from happening. For instance:
- Perhaps Republicans in the top income bracket should have recused themselves from their vote in 2011 to cut income taxes? You see, this group personally earned an average of over $3,000 with a single vote, while the rest got an average of less than $18 a month.
- Perhaps Republicans who have minimum wage employees should have recused themselves from voting on last year’s minimum wage increase bill. By sustaining Gov. Paul LePage’s veto, each and every one of them personally pocketed at least $3,120 per full-time employee.
- Perhaps Republicans who live in towns with fewer than 4,000 residents should have recused themselves from their vote in 2011 to exempt their town from environmental building regulations. Now they get to pocket thousands by using shoddy materials while contributing to climate change (which the rest of us will pay for later).
- Perhaps Republicans who were expecting to receive medical care in the next 10 years should have recused themselves from the vote to pay back the state’s hospital debt. That money has allowed hospitals to reduce their own interest expense, thereby saving patients who use their facilities.
- Perhaps Republicans who voted to cut the pensions of state workers in 2011 should have recused themselves. By cutting their pensions, as opposed to paying for the promised benefits, Republicans were simply keeping their own taxes down by hundreds of millions of dollars.
I could obviously go on and on with the absurdity of their claim, but, better yet, how about Republicans stop throwing stones in their glass house?
They have lost the argument against health care expansion on the merits, and they are desperately looking for a way to distract by making silly personal attacks on the speaker. Honestly, this behavior is unseemly and shows that their walls of credibility are starting to crack.