A tyranny of the minority is raising your health care costs
© Getty Images

I hear it every day. People are frustrated that nothing is getting done in Congress. And the frustration is warranted. We are setting records for inaction. And it is because Americans are suffering under the tyranny of a minority.

On our young Dreamers, guns, and now health care, there are bipartisan bills ready to go that have bipartisan support. But they may never make it the floor for a vote. Why? Because two men – House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTSA agents protest government shutdown at Pittsburgh airport The case for Russia sanctions Pompeo planning to meet with Pat Roberts amid 2020 Senate speculation MORE (R-Ky.) – get to decide what bills we vote on. And they, for their part, act with the permission of their most extreme wings, a minority within their own party.

ADVERTISEMENT

I guess I can understand why. Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBreaking the impasse on shutdown, border security McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorOusted GOP lawmaker David Brat named dean at Liberty University business school Trump, GOP seek to shift blame for shutdown to Pelosi Hoyer: Ryan’s legacy a mix of decency and debt MORE (R-Va.) both lost their jobs in part because they were open to the idea of working with Democrats. Cantor was primaried for his support of even incremental action on immigration reform. BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBreaking the impasse on shutdown, border security McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE was punished for turning to Democrats when his own party repeatedly refused to vote for the budgets and debt ceiling increases needed to keep the government functioning.

So the lesson was clear: adhere to the wishes of the most extreme members, or else.

This pressure ultimately killed comprehensive immigration reform in 2013. Despite passing the Senate with an overwhelming 68 votes (more support than is required for even passing a constitutional amendment), the immigration bill was never even considered in the House. You read that right. It’s not that it failed to win a majority. It was never called up for a vote. Perhaps it is because the Republican leaders at the time knew it would pass with a similarly bipartisan majority and they were more concerned by the anger of the few who would have voted no.

And so now, even though President Trump (himself elected by a minority of Americans), has begged Congress to act to stop him from deporting Dreamers, the bipartisan DREAM Act, which I know could gain a majority of votes, is being delayed at the behest of the most anti-immigrant few.

It’s the same story with guns. In poll after poll, common sense gun legislation is supported by 80 percent-90 percent of Americans. Anything from universal background checks to restrictions on the most lethal weapons and ammunition are widely supported. But even after the shooting in Las Vegas, the worst mass shooting in American history – a mere 16 months after the last worst mass shooting in American history – Republican leaders in Congress said the people were wrong in their desire for action, and there would be no significant gun reforms.

The latest instance happened just last week after President Trump announced he would be ending the cost sharing reduction (CSR) payments that have been successful at allowing more Americans to afford health insurance. Ending the CSR payments is absolutely certain to raise the cost of health care. So Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown MORE, a Republican, worked with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySen. Murray says Washington behavior reminds her of former preschool students Senate rejects government-wide ban on abortion funding Overnight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal MORE, a Democrat, to draft a bill that would extend those payments for two years. This would ensure that skyrocketing health care costs would not kick Americans off their insurance plans while Congress works on a permanent fix to the Affordable Care Act. President Trump even voiced support for the plan. Until he retracted it. And then Ryan followed suit, opposing the bipartisan agreement.

So to be clear, the president took an action that is certain to raise health care costs. A bipartisan plan to help save American families from that cost was created. But you’ll never get to see how your representative in Congress will vote on it.

Unless.

Unless the majority speaks up and we become the voices that cannot be ignored. This could happen. In fact, we saw it just last Congress with the Export-Import Bank, an important program that helps American small businesses sell their goods abroad. A handful of Tea Party Republicans wanted to end this program, but that would have hurt businesses across the country. Still, Speaker Ryan followed the wishes of the few and the vote to continue funding the Export-Import Bank was kept off the floor. Until Republicans and Democrats got together to do something that has only been done a handful of times in history: we went around leadership. By signing something called a discharge petition, a majority of the House was able to bring the bill straight to the floor for a vote where it passed. And now, the Export-Import Bank is once again functioning as it should, supporting our small businesses and exporters.

It’s time for the majority to act again. If we want to protect the Dreamers in our communities, put an end to mass shootings, or stop an avoidable increase in health care premiums, we may need to go around the minority in power who stand in our way. Already, Democrats have signed a discharge petition – like the one used for the Export-Import Bank – to force a vote on the DREAM Act.

Our position is simple: let us vote. Let the people see where their members stand. It’s time that the majority is heard.

Chu represents California's 27th District.