In an eloquent and brief speech July 25 on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John McCain showed us the way forward on health care legislation. His dramatic appearance — following surgery and a diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer — as well as his words, riveted the attention of colleagues and the viewing audience. He addressed the senators, but his words apply to each of us. He spoke of humility, of the need to cooperate, of our dependence on each other, of learning to trust one another again. Tune out the bombastic loudmouths on TV, the internet and radio, he urged.
“Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason,” he said in prepared remarks. “Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.” Truth be told, we have all been guilty at some point in our lives of wanting to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a compromise that serves others beyond ourselves.
McCain spoke of the value of “incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept” as part of a “system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.” No one will get everything she or he desires in health care coverage, but Catholic Social Teaching calls us to ensure that the least among us have their basic needs met first.
How many of us long for the unity that McCain calls us to? That our God calls us to? “I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us,” McCain told the Senate. “Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides….”
The American people deserve better than the “shell of a bill” that Senator Mitch McConnell brought to a vote and which ultimately failed. McCain received some criticism for voting to move the discussion forward. But the discussion does need to move forward … between Republicans and Democrats. Millions of lives are at stake: our relatives with disabilities, our frail elderly who are able to live at home because of Medicaid-funded services, our kids whose families have limited incomes. Medicaid was on the chopping block under the nebulous, shifting health care proposals that would have forced financially strapped states like Iowa to take a triage approach to Medicaid-funded services.
Our U.S. bishops frame the health care issue from the context of the dignity of the human person. Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Fla., says the following action items are essential to any bill to be considered in the future:
• Protect the Medicaid program from changes that would harm millions of Americans.
• Protect the safety net from any other changes that harm the poor, immigrants, or any other persons on the margins.
• Address the real probability of collapsing insurance markets and the corresponding loss of genuine affordability for those with limited means.
• Provide full Hyde Amendment provisions and much-needed conscience protections.
The Social Action Advocacy Group of the Diocese of Davenport notes that a phone call is the most effective way of conveying concerns to our legislators. While personally composed email notes to legislators receive enhanced attention and a written response, phone calls are rated by legislators as being most effective in letting them know what their constituents are concerned about.
Don’t be afraid to call. You will not be challenged or required to defend your position. Speak from the heart about what health care means to you, to your loved ones and to those you know who are struggling to make ends meet. You may call Senator Charles Grassley (202) 224-3744; Senator Joni Ernst (202) 224-3254; Representative Rod Blum (202)-225-2911; and Representative Dave Loebsack (202)-225-6576.
Sen. McCain speaks so movingly of our need for one another in order to thrive. Let’s take the McCain way to breach the walls that divide us by encouraging Congress to ensure that health care legislation is just and fair. God created us as companions on a journey, offering one another assistance as needed.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor