Cory Gard­ner needs to join health care re­peal protest.

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE -

Last week Amer­i­cans were treated to an­other mis­er­able per­for­mance by Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in their de­ter­mined but hope­lessly mis­guided at­tempt to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare. With sig­nif­i­cant rea­son to re­form the Obama legacy, which is plagued by ris­ing health care costs, the party can’t seem to come up with a plan that makes sense.

Look, they had plenty of op­por­tu­nity. After seven years of com­plain­ing and com­plain­ing and com­plain­ing about how the Democrats passed the bill with­out Repub­li­can buy-in, they trusted Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell to craft — in se­cret — a mea­sure meant to cre­ate unity and clar­ity. Or at least enough of it to clear the cham­ber.

The grand plan failed spec­tac­u­larly, and for at least two sig­nif­i­cant rea­sons. First, Amer­i­cans saw through the hypocrisy of the party’s strat­egy to bring a vote with lit­tle to zero time de­voted to de­bate. Sec­ond, after the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice re­leased its anal­y­sis of the pro­posed changes, enough Repub­li­cans bolted to scut­tle the planned pre-re­cess vote. The CBO found McCon­nell’s var­i­ous work­arounds amounted to a mas­sive re­dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth pro­posed by Repub­li­cans that would cost 22 mil­lion peo­ple ac­cess to health care by 2026.

In­deed, McCon­nell’s ap­proach and his bill are so ap­pallingly bad as to not just in­vite, but war­rant protest.

Here in Colorado, the spec­ta­cle has placed Sen. Cory Gard­ner in a most damn­ing spot­light. It’s time for him to ex­er­cise his lead­er­ship within the party — Gard­ner runs the Na­tional Repub­li­can Se­na­to­rial Com­mit­tee — and join the bi­par­ti­san re­jec­tion of the McCon­nell ef­fort.

Gard­ner’s si­lence on what he’d like to see changed in the bill is deaf­en­ing in a state where a shock­ingly high per­cent of vot­ers sup­port a more lib­eral ap­proach to health care.

Our first-term Repub­li­can sen­a­tor needs to think long and hard about who he rep­re­sents and what he stands for.

He needs to spend his break telling con­stituents how he’d like to fix health care and why he’s the right man for the job in D.C. Be­cause now there is clear rea­son for doubt. While he’s shown him­self too skilled at dodg­ing town hall meet­ings of con­stituents, Gard­ner can’t es­cape the pub­lic record. Gard­ner was one of the se­lect mem­bers of a work­ing group meant to in­form McCon­nell’s bill.

Gard­ner was right in late June to de­mand more trans­parency in McCon­nell’s ef­fort. He was right also to ask his party to slow down and not rush the vote. We’re pleased he’s work­ing with med­i­cal providers and ex­perts in Colorado.

But it’s time the sen­a­tor got on board with a force­ful mes­sage to seek and find rea­son­able and re­spon­si­ble mid­dle ground. Heath in­sur­ance cov­er­age is too com­plex to get wrong. The leg­isla­tive sys­tem of checks and bal­ances ought to be fol­lowed.

Amer­i­cans are be­com­ing over­wrought. Protesters in Gard­ner’s Den­ver of­fice last week started camp­ing overnight in hopes of gain­ing an au­di­ence and on Satur­day we ad­dressed our con­cerns with how poorly that was han­dled by Gard­ner.

Noth­ing about the path he is on will be easy, but if Gard­ner wants to prove his met­tle as a leader, this is his chance.

He ought to take it.

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