House Republicans plan to attach a one-year delay of [the Patient Protection Act] and a repeal of its medical device to a stopgap spending bill on Saturday, a move that could ensure much of the federal government shuts down on Tuesday.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) outlined the maneuver to Republicans in a closed-door conference meeting on Saturday; members could be heard cheering outside the room in a Capitol basement.
Republican lawmakers inside the meeting chanted, “Vote! Vote! Vote!” after hearing the plan, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said.
In yet the latest sure sign that Republicans are inhabiting some parallel universe where up is down, north is south, and east is west, The Hill quoted Alabama Republican Mo Brooks as saying, “When people understand what the House of Representatives is doing, in that we are willing to fund 99 percent of the federal government that all parties agree of funding, then the American people are going to see that we’re not the obstructionists — the Senate is.”
Nice try, Republicans.
The Senate has already passed a “clean” stopgap budget bill that keeps the federal government running for a few more weeks. There are no gimmicks or right wing goodies in it, nor are there are Democratic reforms or initiatives in it.
House Republicans, by refusing to simply concur with the Senate, are taking the country closer to the brink of a shutdown. They know it, and they don’t care. They’re determined to play hardball. They seemingly believe that the president and Senate Democrats will ultimately capitulate if they wait long enough.
And they have reason to cling to such a belief.
After all, they’ve played hardball in the past (remember the manufactured debt ceiling crisis in 2011?) and wrought concessions out of the White House by refusing to yield. The debt ceiling showdown in 2011 set a very bad precedent that Republicans are now hoping to repeat. At the time that President Obama made that bargain, we called it a raw deal all around… and it was.
We can’t stop lurching from one invented fiscal crisis to the next because Congress is broken. The House and Senate are both controlled by extremists. In the House, the extremists have a hold on the Republican “leadership”, and in the Senate, the extremists have the filibuster at their disposal, allowing them to block legislation.
Consequently, since the Republican Party is now a political machine run by hardliners, congressional Republicans go into hostage-taking mode on a regular schedule, hoping to force Democrats into untenable corners and get them to vote for “compromise” bills that sabotage our common wealth and public services.
President Obama and his team, however, appear to have finally begun to realize that there is nothing to be gained by continuing to negotiate with the hostage takers. The president is personally invested in the Patient Protection Act, and dismantling it is not something he is willing to do – period. And so, rather than trying to hammer out another grand bargain with John Boehner, the president has gone golfing, while Press Secretary Jay Carney issued the following statement:
Today Republicans in the House of Representatives moved to shut down the government. Congress has two jobs to do: pass budgets and pay the bills it has racked up. Republicans in Congress had the opportunity to pass a routine, simple continuing resolution that keeps the government running for a few more weeks. But instead, Republicans decided they would rather make an ideological point by demanding the sabotage of the health care law.
Republicans have tried and failed to defund or delay the health care law more than forty times, and they know this demand is reckless and irresponsible. The President has shown that he is willing to improve the health care law and meet Republicans more than halfway to deal with our fiscal challenges, but he will not do so under threats of a government shutdown that will hurt our economy. Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown. It’s time for the House to listen to the American people and act, as the Senate has, in a reasonable way to pass a bill that keeps the government running and move on.
The first part of Carney’s statement is on point and appropriate. The second part shows the Obama administration unfortunately still has a very weak posture when it comes to fiscal responsibility. When are they going to learn? We don’t need another grand bargain like the one the White House agreed to in 2011.
We need to get rid of the sequester as soon as possible, not continue down a path that will result in more draconian budget cuts.
The President should not be willing to “meet Republicans more than halfway to deal with our fiscal challenges.” Democrats control the presidency and the United States Senate. Why on earth would the White House say the president is willing to meet Republicans “more than halfway?” It defies sense. They know the Republicans are hostage takers. They know the Republicans fly the elephant above the stars and stripes. This is not a group of people who want to negotiate in good faith.
But even if they were willing to negotiate in good faith, capitulation would still be a mistake. Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats owe it to the people who elected them to rally behind Democratic values and stand fast to protect our nation’s common wealth and its public services. Democrats ought to remember: they were elected to lead, not to capitulate.
Commentators and pundits, meanwhile, should remember that the American people had the opportunity to elect a Republican Senate and a Republican president last year. Instead, they elected a more Democratic Senate, reelected a Democratic president, and cut the Republicans’ majority in the House down by several seats despite gerrymandering. The 2012 elections were a rejection of the right wing agenda that House Republicans are now attempting to ram through the Capitol.
Despite what Republicans are saying today, the ball is still in their court. They could easily avert a shutdown on Tuesday if they wanted to. But they don’t.