We are almost through Day One of the first major shutdown of the federal government in seventeen years, and sadly, it still appears that House Republicans are unwilling and unready to do their jobs. They could have easily averted the shutdown days ago by simply passing the continuing budget resolution the Senate sent them, and then sending a negotiating team to the bargaining table to hammer out a budget over a longer period of time. They chose not to.
Instead, they have dug in and doubled down, and our country is suffering for it.
Republicans are so obsessed with winning that they have transformed the political landscape into a war scene. They cede only what they are forced to cede. They have control of the House of Representatives, and they are using it to cripple the American people’s government to make a political statement. Their scorched earth tactics are causing serious harm to this country.
They could not stop the Patient Protection Act from passing, so they spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the law (remember the “death panels”?).
They then challenged the constitutionality of the Patient Protection Act, but the courts repeatedly upheld it, with George W. Bush’s own handpicked chief justice providing the pivotal vote in the Supreme Court’s landmark decision.
Finally, they went all out to defeat Barack Obama and capture the Senate in 2012, with Karl Rove orchestrating a massive campaign against the President and Democratic senators. As we all know, they lost. Barack Obama easily defeated Mitt Romney, who campaigned on repealing the Act, and Democrats increased their majorities in the Senate, as well as in the U.S. House, despite gerrymandering.
None of those losses have deterred House Republicans. They couldn’t win in the courts, the court of public opinion, or at the ballot box. So now they are trying extortion. Blackmail. Either you agree to our demands, or we will make sure the federal government is not open for business on October 1st. That is the outrageous message they have delivered to President Obama and Senate Democrats.
They, and they alone, bear the blame for the shutdown. They say Democrats refuse to compromise, to negotiate. That’s just laughable. There is no negotiating with extortionists. Extortionists demand and insist on capitulation. They demand ransoms. They are not interested in cooperation.
House Republicans gambled that if they played hardball, Democrats would capitulate. It hasn’t happened, and now we are seeing signs that the least extreme of the House Republicans are beginning to panic.
They fear the consequences of a shutdown – perhaps not the consequences for their own constituents, but certainly for themselves.
The rest of the Republicans seem not to care that their intransigence has inconvenienced millions of Americans and put hundreds of thousands more out of work. They stupidly expect Democratic capitulation to suddenly just happen at some point, and they are willing to wait for it. Perhaps a very long time.
Democrats must not, and should not, capitulate. They should make Republicans pay a steep price for their attempt at blackmail. What they must say every day is: Let’s not forget that House Republicans forced this federal government shutdown to happen. It was their choice. They knew full well that all they needed to do to stop national park gates from being padlocked and public workers kept home was to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government’s doors open.
House Republicans were asked to sign off on that resolution. The Senate had already passed it; the President would sign it immediately if it were passed by the House. But they have refused. John Boehner could, if he wanted, take the faction of more reasonable Republicans with him and join the House Democrats in voting for a clean continuing resolution. But he is no leader. He is a coward.
The Tea Party wing of the House Republican caucus, meanwhile, are acting like spoiled children throwing an epic temper tantrum – spoiled children who are thinking only of themselves, not the well-being of their family. They are putting their family’s happiness and integrity at grave risk with their greed, selfishness and stubbornness. It is a depressing, ugly spectacle.
And it’s about to get worse. In a few days we will be a week away from the day when the U.S. Department of Treasury says it will no longer have the authority to pay the nation’s bills. A failure by Congress to raise the debt ceiling could have a catastrophic effect on our country. If a majority of House Republicans cannot be roused to their senses, then the minority who can have a patriotic duty to help Democrats keep the United States of America functioning. We will all lose and lose big if Republicans continue to fly the elephant over the Stars and Stripes.
As the President said today:
I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay bills it’s already racked up. I’m not going to allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to refight a settled election or extract ideological demands. Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hardworking families over a law you don’t like.
There are a whole bunch of things that I’d like to see passed through Congress that the House Republicans haven’t passed yet, and I’m not out there saying, well, I’m not — I’m going to let America default unless Congress does something that they don’t want to do.
That’s not how adults operate. Certainly that’s not how our government should operate. And that’s true whether there’s a Democrat in this office or a Republican in this office. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Democratic House of Representatives or a Republican-controlled House of Representatives — there are certain rules that everybody abides by because we don’t want to hurt other people just because we have a political disagreement.
So my basic message to Congress is this: Pass a budget. End the government shutdown. Pay your bills. Prevent an economic shutdown. Don’t wait. Don’t delay. Don’t put our economy or our people through this any longer.
For as long as it takes, the President should go on saying this. He should consider going on the road, too, and taking that message to the American people, to put more pressure on House Republicans. The only way to stop this kind of extortion from becoming routine is to fight it and fight it hard.