Director of Public Affairs & Connecting Point Host Jim Madigan

There was a lot of excitement in the media late last month when U.S. House and Senate negotiators said they’d reached a budget agreement. There would not be yet another federal government shutdown early in the new year. Many hailed a new spirit of cooperation in the halls of Congress. Sorry to be the one to rain on the picnic — but all I can say is “Don’t bet on it”.

Sorry — but the agreement achieved by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (Mitt Romney’s 2012 running mate) doesn’t really do much more than get Congress past the next immediate budget hurdle.

There’s still the continuing Republican opposition to the President’s Health Care Reform plan — and I say that is really at the center of why things are not going to change very much on Capitol Hill. Most Republicans in the Congress feel that the “Affordable Care Act” — better known as “Obamacare” is simply a bureaucratic mess that just won’t work and is going to cost billions. All the troubles with the Health Care website didn’t do anything to calm the fears of millions of Americans hoping the program would provide them and their families with reliable, affordable health insurance. Many Americans have been told that their current health coverage was being canceled because their policies didn’t meet the minimum requirements of the reform plan. The President was even forced to admit he was wrong when he’d said that no one who liked their current insurance would have to make a change. While the website is apparently doing better and other concerns are being addressed — it still remains to be seen if enough low-risk young people will sign up for “Obamacare” to give it the broad financial support it needs. So far, the numbers are not very promising.

That means many congressional Republicans are probably going to just keep hammering away at “Obamacare” — trying to force cuts and limitations even if they can’t repeal it outright. The congressional elections this fall are likely to be yet another referendum on “Obamacare” — and Republicans think all the confusion surrounding the program will help them hold and increase their U.S. House majority and perhaps even take back control of the Senate. Democrats hope that in some Senate races, far-right, “Tea Party”-aligned Republican candidates will be just too much for many voters to swallow — helping Dems hold the Senate. Those Democrats also know that if “Obamacare” dominates the fall debate — they are in big trouble. Meanwhile, here in Bluest-of-the-Blue states Massachusetts, we may miss out on all the action. We’ve got a Senate race this fall — as Ed Markey tries for a full term — after his special election last summer to fill the John Kerry vacancy. So far, all the Republican officials and activists I’ve talked to say they don’t know of any high-profile, well-known person in their party planning to run for the U.S. Senate from the Baystate.