South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Indiana): Fred Upton plays a reckless game with health care bill

When The Tribune Editorial Board endorsed U.S. Rep. Fred Upton last October, we praised his “level-headed, common-sense approach to issues.”

We called the longtime Republican congressman from Michigan, with a reputation as a moderate, “the type of legislator we need right now in hyperpartisan Washington.”

One of Upton’s statements that particularly caught our attention was in regards to the Affordable Care Act. Adjustments need to be made, he said, while urging caution.

“You can’t just repeal it,” he said at the time. “If people like it, we shouldn’t take it away.”

How things change in a few months. How disappointing.

Upton’s most recent actions in the health care debate were anything but level-headed.

He started the week well enough, taking a stand on the potential loss of insurance protection for people with pre-existing conditions. Upton declared he couldn’t support the GOP bill since it lacked that protection. It seemed like a noble stand. The national spotlight quickly shined on him.

Then came private meetings with House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump. Then came the pivot.

The day after declaring his opposition, Upton announced he had helped craft a compromise — tack on $8 billion to help people with pre-existing conditions — and said he could now champion the bill.

But expert after expert has said $8 billion isn’t nearly enough. And a host of medical organizations have come out against the bill; the AARP called it a “deeply flawed” piece of legislation.

Republicans have raced through a bill that needed much more time to season. They voted on it without waiting for a full analysis and without knowing the full impact. It was a rush job, and a reckless one at that considering insurance coverage for millions of people hangs in the balance.

They’re guilty of exactly what they blamed former President Obama and Democrats of doing when the ACA was pushed into law. The fact that they’re kicking the ball to the Senate, fully expecting their flawed bill will be changed anyways, doesn’t make the move any less reckless.

Upton’s role in this mess can’t be overlooked. He emerged as a central force and he had the ear of the key players in the debate. He should have urged more time, more caution, more study, more cooperation. But he ended up caving to, or playing, partisan politics.

His compromise idea was dubbed the “Upton Amendment.” It’s nothing to be proud of.

Is Upton still the type of legislator we need in hyperpartisan Washington? Not the version that showed up in Washington last week.