Dangerous congressional game was never about Obamacare
— October 4, 2013
“Stupid is as stupid does.”
— Young Forrest Gump, quoting his momma
Lately Republicans in Congress have managed to top their mistakes every day. Just when you think their actions can’t get any more hypocritical, ludicrous or mean, along comes a representative who takes their party’s game to a whole new level.
After pretending they shut down the federal government last week because of their hatred of Obamacare — which put the GOP in the crazy position of trying to “save” millions of Americans from affordable health insurance — Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) stunned observers by finally telling the truth.
“We’re not going to be disrespected,” Stutzman, one of the Tea Partiers calling all of the shots in the House, whined to a Washington Examiner reporter after the effort failed. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
That’s the first true statement that’s been uttered by one of these fools since they launched this fiasco, which has seen some 800,000 federal workers furloughed and ground much of what the government does to a halt.
The GOP playbook has changed at a dizzying rate since Monday, when President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats shot down their last-ditch efforts to justify the government shutdown they engineered. When Republicans realized they weren’t going to make the opposition blink when the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges were due to go online the next day, they quickly jettisoned defunding Obamacare as a rationale for their recklessness.
Instead, because they didn’t want to be blamed for the shutdown that was about to happen, they complained bitterly that the Democrats refused to negotiate on their budget differences. But it rang hollow when Democrats pointed out that House Republicans had refused on 18 occasions to appoint budget conferees to work with senators.
Besides, Senate Democrats had already agreed to much lower budget levels than they wanted in a continuing resolution they accepted to keep the government running for another two months. Instead of undoing much of the damage to social services and education programs that Republicans had rammed through with the sequester, Democratic leaders put that fight on hold for the good of the country.
So Stutzman’s party already had its victory, but Tea Partiers were either too stubborn or too stupid to recognize it. But there’s also a third option, which is probably closer to the truth: These cynical politicians just wanted to shut down the federal government to prove that they could. Heck, they even campaigned on it.
Last Tuesday, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow showed her audience a 2010 clip of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) outlining the GOP’s strategy: “If we say, look, we’re in partnership with the American people, we’re listening to the American people, this is what we’re going to do. If the government shuts down, we want you with us. … We’ve got to have you there because later on, you all will call us and say, look, I didn’t get my check. Daddy can’t go to the VA. You know, the national parks are closed. We need to make sure that you’re going to be with us.”
The GOP took over the House in January 2011 and has been threatening to shut down the government over different manufactured crises ever since. They finally did it, ostensibly over Obamacare, but any reason would do because in their misguided minds, they thought the American people would have their backs. And if they didn’t, they always figured they could shift the blame onto the Democrats — this time for the crime of not unilaterally caving into their demands to dismantle a law that was passed by Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court and reaffirmed in the presidential election last year.
When the Tea Party contingent shut down the government, they were downright giddy. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) excitedly said, “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.” But they stumbled over themselves trying to weasel out of the mess they made.
Bachmann and her pals desperately tried to latch on to any photo-op they could think of that might mask the stench of what they did to the American people. When veterans were upset that the World War II Monument they flew to Washington to see was closed, Republican congressmen pretended they were outraged by the shutdown that they created. “Every day there’s a shutdown, we’re going to be here to make sure the veterans get in,” Bachmann said.
Shamelessly, they condemned Democrats for not agreeing to reopen the National Institutes of Health after the Wall Street Journal reported that 30 children were among the 200 patients who were now without treatment for their cancer.
Democrats obviously want to save cancer patients, but they want to help everyone who was put at risk because of the selfish acts of Republicans. Instead of funding piecemeal programs that the GOP thinks it can use to its advantage because they’re popular, Democrats want to put all of the federal employees back to work. That includes the food safety inspectors, the mine inspectors and the environmental regulators whose absences could lead to catastrophes.
The Democrats know that the national parks would reopen, poor women would be assured of getting food assistance for their children, federal intelligence officers would be able to track terrorists, and thousands of the other things Americans expect to be done as a function of the government would reboot if House Speaker John Boehner would simply allow the House to vote on a continuing resolution sans the Tea Party representatives’ demand to get something, anything, that they could call a victory. There are enough reasonable Republicans who would join with the entire Democratic caucus to end this stupidity.
The question we in Wyoming need to ask is, “Will our delegation continue this dangerous nonsense?” Given a clean continuing resolution, will they sign it and put the government back in operation?
Rep. Cynthia Lummis was one of 80 House members in August who signed a letter demanding that Boehner threaten a government shutdown if Obamacare wasn’t defunded. She and Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso have marched in lockstep with their party leaders in voting to carry out that threat.
Will they do so again, in defiance of all common sense, now that Obamacare isn’t even the issue they were so willing to fall on their swords for? More importantly, as Obama pointed out in his brilliant speech at a Maryland construction company on Thursday, are they part of the Republican crowd that is overjoyed at the prospect of allowing the United States to default on its debts for the first time in our history, at the expense of the nation’s — and the world’s — economy?
I sincerely hope that our delegation stands up and does what’s right for the country, and not fall back on the notion that they have safe seats no matter what they do. If they are responsible for keeping the government shut down, turning us into deadbeats and ruining our economy, they must be held accountable and replaced. So far, not one of the three has done anything to indicate they won’t follow their party leaders and take us all right over the cliff with them.
— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is the editor-in-chief of The Casper Citizen, a nonprofit, online community newspaper. It can be viewed at www.caspercitizen.com.
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