By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz inserted an amendment in the District of Columbia’s appropriation bill that has many District residents and leaders angry. Cruz, a Texas Republican, wants to prohibit the District from using its local funds to carry out one of the hallmarks of Obamacare, the individual mandate, which requires residents to purchase health insurance.
“Under Obamacare, millions of Americans have lost their doctors, seen their premiums skyrocket and have been forced into part-time work,” Cruz said in a July 24 statement. “Those Americans living in our nation’s capital have not been exempt from these hardships.”
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) quickly responded to Cruz’s action. “Senator Cruz needs to do more for Texas,” Norton said sharply. “Instead, he is stealing precious time and effort from his Texas constituents to abuse congressional power by interfering with the affairs of another member’s district. As the main proponent of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and stripping health insurance from millions of Americans, he cannot bear to see health care offered even at the local level. Unfortunately, for him, the ACA is more popular than ever nationwide, and we will beat his attempts to take out D.C.’s local version.”
Three states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont, have passed legislation that requires its residents to have health insurance. The District, through its budget process, quietly did the same two months ago. The amendment is still pending but has not been acted upon by the Senate and Norton is doing everything she can to convince her senator friends to ensure it doesn’t pass.
Cruz has tried to impose his will on the District previously with bills to create vouchers for private schools with city taxpayers’ dollars and trying to gut the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Amendment Act and failed.
Cruz isn’t even popular with District Republicans. In the March 12, 2016 Republican presidential caucus, Cruz came in fourth behind Sen. Mark Rubio (D-Fla.), Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Donald Trump. He won no District delegates to the Republican National Convention that year.
Norton isn’t the only District resident outraged by Cruz’s amendment. Ralph Chittams, a resident of Ward 7 and the former senior vice chairman of the District of Columbia Republican Party, told the AFRO he is no fan of Obamacare but is disturbed by what Cruz is doing.
“Generally, I oppose Congress meddling in local governance issues and the District has a Home Rule Charter governing the city, so I think Congress should let the city have more autonomy,” he said.
“However, the U.S. Constitution gives Congress oversight over D.C. For me it is a tight rope situation.”
Chittams notes that overturning the will of the people of the District has been done not only by the Congress but by the D.C. Council itself. “We recently had an initiative that was passed by the people,”
Chittams said, referring to Initiative 77, that would give tipped workers a $15 an hour minimum wage in several years, that was approved by the voters on June 19. “The D.C. Council is seeking to overturn the Initiative and so is the Council any better than the Congress?”