LaHood: ambitious ‘bipartisan’ advocate or extremist?

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Bill Knight

Even as a democratic socialist, I find it difficult to dislike Darin LaHood, akin to scolding a gifted musician’s child for being tone-deaf.

But Illinois’ 18th District Republican Congressman seems to exalt bipartisanship and express concerns for social issues that liberals value (health care, child-care) while steadfastly backing President Trump and embracing extreme positions.

If he’s trying to please everyone, it may backfire.

The 53-year-old attorney son of Ray LaHood, a seven-term Congressman who also served in Democratic President Obama’s cabinet, Darin was appointed in 2011 to the State Senate, where he won the seat the next year against no opponent. He served there until he replaced Republican Aaron Schock, who resigned. Darin won races in 2016, 2018 and 2020 by around 100,000 votes, perhaps helped by a Democratic Party that didn’t really compete.

In recent months, Darin’s pushed two bills dealing with health care and a third addressing family leave and child-care, all seemingly attempts to play both sides of the aisle, or insubstantial distractions from actions that may not play well with many voters.

After Darin in June received an Award for Conservative Achievement from the American Conservative Union (which also recognizes Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley), he said, “I am proud of my record advocating for our conservative values in central and west-central Illinois.”

Darin was 1 of 106 Congressional Republicans who supported December’s lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results; the day before the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection he reportedly told a newspaper he was unsure about backing the certification of votes; and on Jan. 8 “spoke out of both sides of his mouth,” according to professor emeritus Steve Hochstadt of Illinois College in Jacksonville.

Darin commented to local TV “we need to come together,” Hockstadt wrote, adding, “He still asserted that there are ‘election fraud’ issues in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan.”

Recent legislation: LaHood is the only Republican of four lawmakers who re-introduced the “Value in Health Care Act of 2020,” which would reform Medicare payments to boost involvement in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), provider networks coordinating care and sharing financial responsibilities to increase efficiency.

“The Value in Healthcare Act is a commonsense proposal that includes substantive reforms to encourage and support greater participation by health-care providers in ACOs, particularly in our rural communities,” Darin said.

Rural health care needs help. Rural residents tend to be older, sicker and poorer than the general population. More than 40% of rural hospitals operate in the red, according to health-care consultants Navigant, which said 17.3% of Illinois’ rural hospitals are at high risk.

But that bill and a second, the “Rural and Underserved Small Hospital (RUSH) Protection Act” Darin said he introduced, may be insufficient. (Democrat Ron Kind of Wisconsin was actually its primary sponsor; Darin joined two other Democrats and two Republicans as co-sponsors.)

The president of a rural hospital network based in Canton, Ill., said neither piece of legislation will help the 81-bed Graham Hospital or its five rural clinics.

“Both could have positive impact on our peers,” said Robert Senneff, whose nonprofit hospital had net income of some $800,000 on 2020 revenues of $232 million, said the American Hospital Directory.

“What we would really like to see is to have the ability to open additional clinics in rural communities and be reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid based on our costs,” Senneff said. “That was the model in the past; it was replaced by a fixed reimbursement model – significantly below our anticipated costs, making it financially impractical to expand. Residents living in those markets are then forced to seek care elsewhere or defer care.”

Darin’s third recent bill is the “Promoting Equitable Access to Paid Family Leave Act,” which seeks to amend Title IV of the Social Security Act “to provide for parental leave payments to parents after the birth or adoption of a child in lieu of child-care assistance,” Darin said.

Since Title IV sends block grants to states, one wonders whether it would use Social Security funds to substitute for direct government aid.

Darin did introduce that measure, but it stemmed from discussions by GOP colleagues Kevin Brady of Texas and others on the Ways and Means Committee, where Darin serves.

Whether fence-mending or posturing for 2022 (Darin’s claimed he’s undecided about another term based on redistricting possibilities, and Politico reported he’s considering running for governor after a remap of state judicial districts showed no open seat in his area for the Illinois Supreme Court, in which he’d expressed interest), such actions may be politically savvy, or risky. Or maybe they’re awkward nods to an increasingly diverse District since the area’s biggest city elected a liberal-leaning Black woman as mayor. Taking for granted that the 18th is uniformly conservative seems silly.

Sometimes, you just can’t please everyone.

Bill Knight has been a reporter, editor and columnist for more than 50 years. Also an author, Knight is a journalism professor emeritus from WIU, where he taught for more than 20 years. Contact him at bill.knight@hotmail.com; for archives, go to https://ift.tt/2Kt0b7d.

via Canton Daily Ledger

September 12, 2021 at 10:35PM

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