Edi­tor’s note: The fol­low­ing let­ter was trans­mit­ted by fac­sim­i­le to the offices of Dave Reichert, Greg Walden, and Mike Simp­son this morn­ing. A slight­ly dif­fer­ent let­ter was sent to Raul Labrador, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, and Doc Hast­ings, who are known for being hard­lin­ers. All of the afore­men­tioned indi­vid­u­als rep­re­sent (or pur­port to rep­re­sent) por­tions of Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, and Ida­ho in the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives as Republicans. 

Dear Rep­re­sen­ta­tive:

As of tomor­row, Octo­ber 17th, 2013, we will have reached the point at which the Depart­ment of the Trea­sury says it will no longer have the abil­i­ty to use “extra­or­di­nary mea­sures” to con­tin­ue pay­ing bills on behalf of the Unit­ed States. Fur­ther­more, it will have been two and a half weeks since much of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment had to shut down due to you and your Repub­li­can col­leagues’ inde­fen­si­ble refusal to pass a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion to keep pub­lic ser­vices that depend on con­gres­sion­al appro­pri­a­tions open and functioning.

I am writ­ing to ask you to join House Democ­rats in vot­ing for the leg­is­la­tion that Sen­ate lead­ers from both par­ties are draw­ing up that would reopen the gov­ern­ment and autho­rize Trea­sury to pay our nation’s bills. An agree­ment has been reached and the Sen­ate is expect­ed to cod­i­fy it with­in the next few hours.

I ful­ly appre­ci­ate that in cast­ing such a vote, you’ll be risk­ing the wrath of some in your par­ty who see Demo­c­ra­t­ic capit­u­la­tion as the only accept­able out­come of this man­u­fac­tured fis­cal cri­sis. But I’m ask­ing you to take that vote anyway.

I’m ask­ing you to put your coun­try first and restore some sem­blance of calm and con­fi­dence in our sys­tem of gov­ern­ment, which appears to be mal­func­tion­ing hor­ri­bly because your cau­cus is in the grip of extremists.

Yes­ter­day, your col­league, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Her­rera-Beut­ler, released a state­ment in which she pledged to vote to end the shut­down and pre­vent us from default­ing. Here is an excerpt from her news release:

Despite my skep­ti­cism, until now I have refrained from pub­lic com­ment on the House bud­get nego­ti­at­ing strat­e­gy. I want­ed to give House Repub­li­can lead­ers lee­way to craft the best deal they could. But it’s time to reopen the gov­ern­ment and ensure we don’t default on our debt. I will not vote for poi­son pills that have no chance of pass­ing the Sen­ate or being signed into law. […] Noth­ing pos­i­tive will be achieved by pro­long­ing this shut­down any longer, or cross­ing the debt lim­it thresh­old. It’s time for my col­leagues to face reality.

Though I wish Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Her­rera-Beut­ler had said this weeks ago, I’m very glad she has final­ly cho­sen to go on the record and clear­ly state that she is pre­pared to vote to reopen our gov­ern­ment and pay our bills.

I ask that you now make the same pub­lic com­mit­ment that she has.

Even the peo­ple who run the orga­ni­za­tions who have been demand­ing that House Repub­li­cans take a hard line appear to under­stand what the real­i­ty is.

Just this morn­ing, the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Her­itage Action, Michael Need­ham, was on Fox’s Amer­i­ca’s News­room, and he admit­ted that what House Repub­li­cans have been try­ing to accom­plish is not realistic:

Well, every­body knows that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017, and that we have to win the Sen­ate and win the White House.

So what’s with the hostage-tak­ing, then? It has not led to any pos­i­tive out­come of any kind. As your col­league Peter King told The Wash­ing­ton Post: “We didn’t get any­thing. This has been a total waste of time.”

Sen­a­tor John McCain, your par­ty’s nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent in 2008, said much the same thing ear­li­er this week. I quote: “Repub­li­cans have to under­stand we have lost this bat­tle, as I pre­dict­ed weeks ago, that we would not be able to win because we were demand­ing some­thing that was not achievable.”

I get that you don’t like the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act. You don’t have to like it. I’ve yet to meet a fel­low cit­i­zen or activist, pro­gres­sive or con­ser­v­a­tive, who thought that it was per­fect. My team and I don’t think the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act is enough. We believe Amer­i­ca needs and deserves Medicare For All.

But the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act is the law of this coun­try, and it has the poten­tial to do a tremen­dous amount of good once it is imple­ment­ed. It was passed by a major­i­ty of the House, approved by the Sen­ate after over­com­ing a fil­i­buster, signed by the Pres­i­dent, upheld by the Supreme Court of the Unit­ed States, and sanc­tioned by the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States in the last election.

The Repub­li­can Par­ty had an oppor­tu­ni­ty last year to per­suade vot­ers to elect some­one who cam­paigned for more than a year on a plat­form that includ­ed repeal of the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act as a cen­tral tenet. A great deal of time and mon­ey was cer­tain­ly spent in the attempt. But it was not suc­cess­ful. Barack Oba­ma was reelect­ed, Mitt Rom­ney was defeat­ed, and my par­ty, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, picked up seats in both hous­es of Con­gress. That was the out­come of the 2012 elections.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it seems your cau­cus has for­got­ten what the will of the vot­ers was less than one year ago. You were elect­ed to help gov­ern this coun­try too, but so far this month, you and your col­leagues have refused to do your jobs.

You’ve shut down much of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment for no good rea­son and brought us to the brink of default. Is it any won­der that Con­gress’ approval rat­ing is at an all-time low? Peo­ple are absolute­ly disgusted.

I have to won­der: Is win­ning more impor­tant than gov­ern­ing to you? Because your actions (or lack there­of) have left me with that impression.

I don’t make this obser­va­tion as a proud Demo­c­rat, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive… I make it as a dis­mayed Amer­i­can. The world is watch­ing and won­der­ing why the gov­ern­ment of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca can’t get its act togeth­er. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Sen­ate Democ­rats have offered to nego­ti­ate a bud­get if the House would only vote to reopen our gov­ern­ment and pay the bills. The House has, so far, refused.

My par­ty did not win back the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives last year, even though most Amer­i­cans who vot­ed cast a vote for a Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date for U.S. House.

I could go on a long rant about the role that ger­ry­man­der­ing and Cit­i­zens Unit­ed played in help­ing Repub­li­cans win, but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll say this: I accept that, for the time being, your par­ty has a major­i­ty in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. I don’t like it, but I accept it.

How­ev­er, it isn’t clear to me that every­one in your cau­cus accepts that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma is the legit­i­mate­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. You and your col­leagues talk a lot about coop­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion, but the Ted Cruz fan club in your cau­cus insists on capit­u­la­tion. That’s not a rea­son­able posi­tion. And black­mail is not an accept­able leg­isla­tive strategy.

Had the elec­tion turned out dif­fer­ent­ly, I feel con­fi­dent Con­gress would be work­ing on pri­or­i­ties like immi­gra­tion reform and tax reform under Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi, instead of star­ing at the pos­si­bil­i­ty of default while hun­dreds of thou­sands of pub­lic work­ers are at home or idle due to the unnec­es­sary shutdown.

You and your col­leagues con­trol the U.S. House. As Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, you swore or affirmed an oath to defend the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States.

The Con­sti­tu­tion charges you with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of gov­ern­ing, and more specif­i­cal­ly, bud­get­ing. Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 8 explic­it­ly states, “The Con­gress shall have Pow­er To lay and col­lect Tax­es, Duties, Imposts and Excis­es, to pay the Debts and pro­vide for the com­mon Defence and gen­er­al Wel­fare of the Unit­ed States.”

Sec­tion 8 also pro­vides that Con­gress shall have pow­er “To bor­row Mon­ey on the cred­it of the Unit­ed States.”

I think you’re well aware that through­out our his­to­ry, Con­gress has used its pow­er to bor­row mon­ey to finance the gov­ern­men­t’s oper­a­tions. Decades ago we bor­rowed huge sums of mon­ey to fight the Depres­sion and win World War II.

More recent­ly, the inva­sions of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as George W. Bush’s Medicare Pre­scrip­tion Drug, Improve­ment, and Mod­ern­iza­tion Act, were financed on Amer­i­ca’s cred­it card by Repub­li­cans. At the same time, Repub­li­cans gave the wealthy huge tax breaks that they did­n’t need.

We are still liv­ing with the con­se­quences of those decisions.

I do not have a prob­lem with you express­ing oppo­si­tion to the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act, or to the bud­get pro­posed by Sen­ate Democ­rats. I do not view par­ti­san­ship or ide­ol­o­gy as evils. I view par­ti­san­ship and ide­ol­o­gy as healthy and nec­es­sary in a democ­ra­cy. Any­one with a posi­tion on any issue can be called a par­ti­san, whether they are affil­i­at­ed with a polit­i­cal par­ty or not.

Fur­ther­more, any­one who uses the pro­gres­sive or con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues sys­tem (or a mix­ture of both) in their polit­i­cal think­ing is an ide­o­logue. There is no tak­ing par­ti­san­ship or ide­ol­o­gy out of demo­c­ra­t­ic pol­i­tics, because if peo­ple do not have the free­dom to dis­agree, they are not free. Par­ti­san­ship does­n’t equal extremism.

But when par­ti­san­ship is com­bined with mil­i­tant means and a demand for a lot of change in a short peri­od of time, the result is extrem­ism. Sad­ly, your cau­cus, the House Repub­li­can cau­cus, is in the grip of extrem­ism. The extrem­ists are in con­trol and the rest of us are their hostages.

I have a prob­lem with that.… as do most of my fel­low Americans.

If the House were tru­ly a demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tion, it would have already vot­ed to reopen the gov­ern­ment, because enough Repub­li­cans have indi­vid­u­al­ly issued state­ments like Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Her­rera-Beut­ler’s, say­ing they’d vote for a clean con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion. I’d wager there are even more Repub­li­cans will­ing to sup­port just autho­riz­ing Trea­sury to con­tin­ue pay­ing our nation’s bills.

But because of the so-called Hastert rule, there has been no such vote. There have only been votes on piece­meal bills to fund a few dif­fer­ent agen­cies that have become the poster chil­dren of the shut­down, like the Nation­al Park Service.

The time for games and gim­micks is over. This shut­down needs to end, and the Amer­i­can peo­ple and the world need to know that the Unit­ed States will pay its bills. Please com­mit today to vot­ing in favor of the leg­is­la­tion the Sen­ate is putting togeth­er to resolve this man­u­fac­tured cri­sis… and to cross­ing the aisle to do so, if nec­es­sary. Show us that you’re an Amer­i­can first and a Repub­li­can second.


Andrew Vil­leneuve
Founder and exec­u­tive director
North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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4 replies on “An open letter to the Pacific Northwest members of the House Republican caucus”

  1. Seems like the Repub­li­cans from Wash­ing­ton State actu­al­ly lis­tened. Wow. Good on you guys for not writ­ing them off.

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