The final word: Bipartisanship wins in 2014 election

Saturday, November 01, 2014 12:58 PM
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by Floyd Ciruli, political analyst and consultant

Floyd Ciruli

Overall, the results of the Nov. 4 election were good for Republicans, bad for Democrats and potentially great for bipartisanship in Colorado. 

For the most part, Colorado Republicans rode on a national wave that gave the party control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in eight years – along with the biggest majority they’ve enjoyed in the U.S. House of Representatives since the World War II era.

Yet, this massive political sea change had a bipartisan element in Colorado, where the electorate split their ticket in electing public officials.

Though Republicans captured the state Senate and will send Rep. Cory Gardner to Washington as a U.S. Senator, Gov. John Hickenlooper will remain in office after barely defeating Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. Meanwhile, Democrats will keep control of the state House – but by a wafer-thin margin.

Essentially, this outcome means the 10-year reign of Democratic dominance is over – making Republicans genuine players in a generally bipartisan state. Though Republicans made significant gains throughout Colorado, many did so by running centrist, middle-of-the-road campaigns that clearly persuaded many independents to give them power.

And since Gardner and many of his fellow Republicans emphasized breaking the gridlock and political rancor that has characterized politics on the national scale, they will need to deliver on these promises if they want to retain power.

Ramifications to health policy
In recent years, Colorado’s General Assembly has approved a number of seemingly “progressive” health policies in communion with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – unlike “purple” and “red” states where legislators have not adopted the provisions because many constituents believe that the ACA is intrusive and makes health care too reliant on the federal government.

In Colorado, some of these ACA-related measures were approved and signed into law with mild bipartisan support (such as the legislation that led to the formation of the Connect for Health Colorado health insurance exchange) and some without (such as the expansion of Medicaid benefits to more Coloradans).

While such legislation most likely would not have been approved if the Republicans controlled one or both chambers of the Capitol, they probably won’t be overturned because the impending balance of power restricts the Republicans’ ability to take immediate action – though such reforms may be more scrutinized than they have been in the recent past.

But while the Colorado General Assembly probably won’t do much to change the health care reforms already in place, the Republicans in Washington are going to be incredibly hostile to the ACA. Party leaders such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have stated their intentions to repeal the ACA and/or defund the Medicaid expansions.

Though President Barack Obama would certainly veto such Republican actions, I remain somewhat hopeful that Republicans will eventually act to improve and refine ACA – and the president will go along with it.

Despite the relatively moderate composition of Colorado’s General Assembly, the state’s Medicaid expansions are dependent on federal funding. For that reason, physicians need to be aware that the national dialogue on health policy is going to be very powerful and may impact the dialogue statewide.

The big picture
Compared to more polarized states, the people of Colorado have a history of electing leaders who will work for solutions to outstanding problems. Our elected officials tend to govern from the center – even if it’s sometimes the center-right or center-left.

Generally, Colorado is a state of centrist Democrats and Republicans. And while we broke away from that tradition and became more polarized and ideological in recent years, the results of this election may show things are moderating a bit.

Under the hands of a centrist, Democratic governor and a politically divided legislature, we’re entering an era where all successful legislation will need bipartisan support. The result will be much more accommodating and incremental legislature and hopefully, more thoughtful and consensus-building public policy.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Final Word | Initiatives | Advocacy


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