More than a week into the the federal government shutdown and a little more than a week away from the debt ceiling deadline, it is time for the nonsense to stop.
A majority of both houses of Congress is reportedly ready to pass a continuing resolution to once again fund government activities, with no strings attached. Why don’t they, then? Because a radical fringe element of the Republican Party has House Speaker John Boehner afraid for his job, if he should allow the measure to come up for a vote.
Republicans can blame President Obama and Democrats for “refusing to negotiate,” but they know full well that they are the ones who are way out of line with legislative precedent. By continuing to insist that any vote to fund the government must include a requirement to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are engaged in nothing more holding the budget hostage-taking.
The Affordable Care Act was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court, and given de facto ratification by the American people when they re-elected President Obama last year. Despite this, Tea Party Republicans believe the measure is still up for debate. While they may believe in their hearts that they are engaged in a fight to “save” the country from Obamacare, they more closely resemble the sore loser who, frustrated with how the checkers match is going, tosses the board into the air.
What makes this all the more ridiculous is that this tantrum will have no effect on the new health care law. Like Social Security and Medicare, the Affordable Care Act is tied to a permanent funding mechanism that allows it to continue, even when the rest of government is closed. In other words, the one thing Republicans have not blocked is Obamacare.
However, their futile attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act is causing real pain in a host of other areas. Nearly every day the budget quagmire continues, the stock market loses billions, and that trend is only expected to increase, as the debt ceiling deadline looms.
Meanwhile, as stockholders continue to watch their wealth evaporate, the very poor are left helpless while the social safety net rapidly comes undone beneath them. A large number of people in Eastern Kentucky depend on federal programs such as heating assistance, WIC nutritional aid, food stamps, Head Start and more, and they could very well begin to see those programs disappear if the shutdown continues as winter approaches.
And although we’ve seen a few snarky grins from a small number of coal industry supporters over the fact that the EPA has been crippled by the shutdown, they forget that so, too, has the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. If you thought the approval of new mine permits was slow before, you haven’t seen anything yet. With the Corps whittled down to a skeleton crew, the permitting process has now come to a complete halt for as long as the shutdown continues.
But the real reason the shutdown must end is that this simply is not the way America operates. Our leaders are not supposed to derail all of government, simply because they are dissatisfied with how an issue was resolved by the majority. That includes even the biggest issues, such as health care reform.
If this budgetary extortion continues for long, or if it results in an iota of success for those pushing it, then a new precedent will have been set that will haunt budget negotiations for the rest of our lives. Every single time whichever party that is in the minority can scrap together enough votes to jettison common sense and torpedo the budget over a wedge issue, that tactic will be deployed. If Republicans regain the White House and both houses of Congress, but Democrats keep enough votes in the Senate to consistently thwart cloture, then they will do so. Turnabout, after all, is fair play.
The American people and all three branches of government have already decided the Affordable Care Act issue. It is time to move on. Republicans who remain opposed to it should turn to the powers of rhetoric and the ballot box to try to win hearts and minds to their viewpoint, rather than trying to bully the nation to adopt their views by holding the budget hostage.
This simply must end.
— The Floyd County Times