Frank R. Pignanelli and LaVarr Webb: GOP vs. GOP, county consolidation and government health care


Utah's unofficial, but much-appreciated, summer interim holiday between July 4 and July 24 has ended. Time to get back to politics as we dodge monsoon thunderstorms.

The congressional health care debate is highly partisan. But now Republicans are attacking Republicans, and the Utah congressional delegation is not immune. Sen. Orrin Hatch publicly questioned Sen. Mike Lee's decision not to support a recent version of “repeal and replace.” Does this turmoil reflect serious GOP discord nationally and locally?

Pignanelli: “This is a debacle and every corner of the Republican Party has blame. We need to come together, or, ironically, Nancy Pelosi, who was ousted in 2010 as speaker over health care is going to be back as speaker because of health care.”—Sara Fagen, GOP strategist

A horrible experience for most law school graduates is the multiple-choice section of the bar examination. More than one correct answer is offered in each question of legal nuances. The trick is to decide which is the "more correct" answer. This mental torture always inflicts anguish and other cruelties. Indeed, childhood prayers long forgotten since Catholic school days suddenly re-emerged while I awaited my test results.

Americans are witnessing the same phenomenon as Republicans wrangle with health care, especially the tussle between Hatch and Lee. In purely political considerations, both are correct. Hatch is right: The Senate must fulfill a commitment made in prior election cycles. But Lee's principled stand that the legislation must adhere to conservative principles is appropriate.

The internal struggle inside Republican ranks is another demonstration that our nation is undergoing a dramatic shift of political realignment. Further, many Democrats have chosen the government-funded single-payer option (or just keeping quiet). So the determination of the “most correct” GOP option is an imperative policy deliberation.

My bar exam was three days (it's now two) — an envied efficiency in the delivery of torment.

Webb: There has never been a lot of love lost between Hatch and Lee. They are very different senators. Hatch has seniority, stature and an extraordinary legislative record. He gets things done. Lee is more of a conservative ideologue, outside the Senate mainstream. But Lee enjoys a higher approval rating among Utah voters than Hatch.

Some disharmony in the ruling party is natural, and Senate Republicans can lose only two votes on health care reform or any other controversial legislation. Given the diversity of senators and the states they represent, it’s very difficult to get a majority vote on a highly contentious issue.

Still, it is embarrassing that Republicans can’t hang together on a major promise virtually all of them made before last year’s election. Republican voters back home are increasingly irritated at Congress’ inability to accomplish the big things. The erratic, undisciplined and fickle White House doesn’t help.

Salt Lake County Recorder Gary Ott will apparently resign. County Mayor Ben McAdamshas suggested combining the recorder's office with the surveyor's office. Does this make sense?

Pignanelli: The tragic Ott controversy is prompting important questions about county government. What is its 21st-century role in a valley with wall-to-wall cities? Do we need all those elected county officials? Can taxpayers be saved this additional level of regulation without sacrificing services?

We are appropriately proud of the "Utah way." McAdams and state officials need to use our unique approach and dramatically restructure and reduce this extra level of government.

Webb: In the spirit of never letting a crisis go to waste, this is an ideal opportunity to consolidate a bit of county government and make it more efficient and accountable. It makes no sense to have so many elected administrative positions in county government.

To the extent possible, state and local governments should follow the model of the U.S. Constitution, which makes one person responsible and accountable for the executive branch. Chopping up executive responsibility among a bunch of elected officials dilutes accountability and creates fiefdoms and silos. If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge. Checks and balances are provided through the three government branches. For the executive branch, let the buck stop with the mayor.

Third Congressional District Democratic candidate Dr. Karen Allen stated her support of a government-funded, single-payer health care system for all Americans. How does this impact the race?

Pignanelli: Dr. Allen demonstrated why she is a beloved medical practitioner and delivered a clear diagnosis on a difficult topic. If the Republican-controlled Congress is unable to deliver viable alternatives to Obamacare, and the insurance markets struggle as projected, her perspectives will garner greater attention.

Webb: This shows she’s out of touch with Utah voters. Why does the Utah Democratic Party keep nominating ultraliberals who have no chance to win? Dysfunctional Republicans are lucky that Democrats are in even greater disarray. A party out of power ought to figure out what voters want, not double down on what hasn’t worked previously. The Democratic slogan ought to be: “When you’re in a hole, keep digging!”