A recent discussion on leadership underscored what Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine believes has led to high-profile failings in some of the government’s most pivotal areas.
Speaking June 26 before the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce, the former governor, Democratic National Committee Chair and 2016 Vice Presidential nominee said leadership is predicated on establishing goals and fostering relationships. Kaine said failures in those areas hurt efforts to first pass the Affordable Care Act, boggled down U.S. counterterrorism initiatives and helped foster Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.
As DNC chair from 2009 to 2011, Kaine helped shape the message behind the ACA under then-President Barack Obama. Polling showed that advocating on behalf of insuring the approximately 45 million Americans without health insurance wasn’t the best way to garner public support, Kaine said Democrats pivoted to a message based on affordability. The initiative was christened the Affordable Care Act in an attempt to promote that message, but Kaine said the ultimate goals weren’t properly articulated.
“They were muddy on what the goal really was and then selling it, and that led to some confusion,” Kaine said. “That led to the marketing not to being as strong as it could be. It led to, along with other reasons, a floor vote that was purely partisan even though the bill was put together in a non-partisan way.”
After months of debate and hearings, along with 145 Republican-authored amendments, Obama signed the bill into law in 2010 without a single GOP vote in the House of Representatives or Senate. Obama’s signature legislative effort during his eight years in office, backlash from the bill helped spark the Tea Party movement and a Republican takeover of the House in November 2010, with many Reps. promising to repeal the ACA.
Republicans tried for six years to overturn the act, but were blocked by Democrats in the Senate until 2015 and the White House until 2017. Now with control of both chambers and the presidency following the 2016 elections, the GOP is finally poised to repeal the ACA.
Not surprisingly, congressional Democrats are doing all they can to thwart that effort.
While he offered critiques of the ACA and ultimately supported it, Kaine has been overtly critical of efforts to replace the bill in general and the new Republican-led alternative specifically. His former opponent on the ticket in the 2016 election, Kaine has been a leading critic of President Donald Trump and as well as the American Health Care Act, the proposed replacement to the ACA.
Speaking before the Chamber, Kaine criticized not only the changes under the AHCA but the way it’s been handled in Congress. After narrowly passing the House with 20 Republicans voting against it, a group of 13 GOP senators crafted a companion bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, behind closed doors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called for a vote before Independence Day, pushing forward the bill only weeks after first drafting it.
Unlike the ACA, the Republican proposal has not been vetted by Senate committee or been subject to public hearings. Additionally, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said that while it it will slice off more than $321 billion from the national deficit, it leave more than 20 million Americans uninsured.
“If (the ACA) wasn’t bipartisan enough, doing it with no hearings and no meaningful amendment process is certainly guaranteed to be suboptimal,” Kaine said. “It’s the most important expenditure anyone is going to make in their life and it’s the biggest sector in the American economy.”
Kaine said that all tied back to a lack of clear goals and understanding relationships.
Trump said the bill’s goal was to save costs from the old act while preventing anyone from losing coverage, seeing a rate increase or losing protections from insurers discriminating against clients with pre-existing conditions. But all three of those factors are likely with the new bill, Kaine said.
Additionally, thousands of Virginians will be impacted by the bill’s cuts to Medicaid. The Republican-controlled General Assembly, in a plan to cut back on the Commonwealth’s ballooning health care costs, blocked Democratic efforts to expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA, becoming one of only 19 states not to do. The new bill will not only eliminate a chance to do that in the future, but cut the existing system.
All the while, Kaine said the bill is being rushed through Congress without a chance to understand the relationship impact on the nation’s complex health care system, including its medical education systems, health care providers and hospital network.
As health care has dominated national political discussion for months, Kaine has been quietly working in the Senate on new defense initiatives. A member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Committee on the Budget and Committee on Foreign Relations, Kaine works in the nexus of international defense efforts and how to finance them. As he looks to put forward a bill to the Senate floor in the coming days, he reiterated to the Chamber the importance of goals and relationships for this latest initiative.
“Just writing a defense bill or a budget allocation for defense without having goals discussions is a really poor decision,” Kaine said. “We can spend as much money as we want, but we have to have discussions about goals.”
Even now, Kaine said the U.S. Department of Defense is lacking a specific strategy for international conflict, particularly stopping threats from ISIS and other terrorist groups. While the U.S. has slowly constricted ISIS’ territory in the Middle East, it has not properly prepared for more extreme response like hijackings or bombings from the terrorist organization on U.S. soil or in its western allies.
Kaine said that under the Truman Doctrine, America had clear foreign policy goals and, bolstered by groups like NATO and national intelligence agencies, the solid relationships to see them through to fruition. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, America has floundered in its objectives, leaving a void that developed further terrorist threats and continued turmoil in the Middle East.
“If we’re going to do the military right or diplomacy right, we have to have a strategy, we have to think of the right role for the U.S. to play in 2017 won’t be the same as 1947,” Kaine said.
America has also faltered in cyber security, Kaine said. He said poor goal setting and relationship fostering helped open a window for Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election on behalf of Trump and against the Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and Kaine.
He added this has been exasperated by Trump’s lack of diplomacy toward our national intelligence agencies as well as our major allies, particularly NATO. By taunting world leaders, he jeopardizes the willingness of collaborative military intelligence, Kaine said, and weakens the nation’s security despite Trump’s promises to “put America first.”
“You don’t stop (ISIS) with an infantry battalion,” Kaine said. “You stop that by sharing information.”