Ever since the healthcare reform bill was passed last spring, conservatives have vowed to undo the law, and it has turned out to be a classic case of strange bedfellows looking for strength in numbers.
Last month, House Republicans pushed through a largely ceremonial repeal bid, which never made it through the Senate. The individual mandate has been highly contested in courts, with judges across the country in dispute about the mandate's constitutionality. Now, some states, Florida in particular, are eagerly claiming that they can exempt themselves from enacting the law.
With all the invective floating around about the healthcare reform law, it can be hard to remember who was behind — and against — the law to begin with. There are the obvious opponents — the pharmaceutical manufacturers, HMOs and insurance companies. But when you follow the money behind the original opposition to healthcare reform, you find it's not the interest groups you'd think it would be.
The list of industries whose money went to oppose healthcare reform includes florists, dairy producers, and oil and gas companies, to name a few.
Why would the oil and gas industry — the American Trucking Association and the American Petroleum Association, specifically — oppose a law that has nothing to do with energy, pollution or carbon caps?
The answer, according to political analyst Sally Baack, is that when it comes to lobbying, big business flocks together. Even though the oil and gas industry may not be directly affected by the healthcare reform deal, it is advantageous for industries who oppose regulation in general to show solidarity with the pro-industry GOP and other industry lobbyists who opposed healthcare reform.
"The oil industry wants to make sure that it does not get at cross-purposes with the dominant position taken by the Republican party," said Baack, a business professor at San Francisco State University. "Based on past relationships and affiliations, there are important relationships to protect there."
One reason the oil industry might want to preserve its ties to the Republican coalition is because its subsidies are set to expire later this month, and they'll need all the help they can get in order to get the subsidies extended.
What's more, the oil industry has an interest in lobbying against any legislation that involves government regulation of a traditionally private issue — like healthcare. Doing so sets a strong anti-regulation trend, something the oil and gas industry needs in order to resist stricter emissions laws.
"Mostly it's precedent-setting," Baack said. "If you're concerned about any kind of policy or regulation, they don't want it to happen to them down the line, so they want to prevent it in other arenas."
Healthcare reform isn't the only example of an industry opposing a bill aiming to regulate a seemingly unrelated segment of the economy. In fact, the American Petroleum Association also opposed the recent Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA), which strengthened the government's ability to prosecute those who commit financial fraud. Interestingly, so did two other organizations that don't typically have anything to do with financial fraud: the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Healthcare Association of New York State. It seems that healthcare groups, oil companies and even florists realize that on K Street, there's strength in numbers.