Most pundits and political observers didn’t really believe that House Speaker John Boehner’s strategy reversal would actually cross the threshold of sanity. Back in March, the speaker made clear that tying defunding of Obamacare or its delay to funding the government was bad strategy and not going to happen. But Boehner did a complete 180-degree turn.
House Republicans were whipped into a frenzy by some three-dozen members whose political ideology and hatred of all things Obama trumped their ability or desire to govern.
Republicans turned against other Republicans. Many Republicans, beyond the 30 or so hard-core “reformers,” could barely contain their contempt of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who, unable to accomplish anything in his own chamber, was putting House Republicans in the untenable position of doing the dirty work and taking the blame.
As Congress returned from summer break, two major actions were needed: passage of a continuing resolution to allow funding of the government without a budget and raising the debt limit so the full faith and credit of the U.S. government would not be jeopardized by defaulting on our debt. These actions required no drama, posturing or game-playing.
Instead, rather than sending the Senate a clean continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown, the Republican-controlled House passed several versions contingent on defunding or delaying portions of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
But the House ignored this reality: The law was passed by Congress three years ago and is the single most significant achievement of the sitting president, who was re-elected and who has the authority to veto any legislation. Is it realistic to believe that President Obama would agree to reverse his hardest-fought policy accomplishment?
What is particularly galling is that this ill-conceived action by House Republicans was done at the expense of the American people, the same people Boehner professed to be protecting.
On top of that, House Republicans insisted a government shutdown was everyone’s fault but theirs. This not only defied logic but also defied their own gleeful reactions and high-fives after their shutdown success.
This is not a game. These are real people being affected. How in good conscience can those who were elected to run government be so cavalier about their duty, their responsibility, their oath of office?
While arrogantly claiming they were “saving” people from the imaginary loss of jobs from Obamacare, they did indeed put 850,000 employees out of work by shutting down the government.
While insisting that the American people don’t want Obamacare, they ignored the polls showing Americans are evenly split on the Affordable Care Act but that 72 percent of Americans are opposed to a government shutdown over Obamacare.
While complaining that the Senate majority leader and the president weren’t willing to negotiate, they failed to acknowledge that we do not have a system of minority rule. They also failed to show what they had offered for negotiation; in fact, they made a demand, not an offer. And what they were demanding had no logical tie to funding the government. It was, quite simply, a tantrum. Making demands does not equal negotiating.
To be clear: It is not OK to shut down government. It is not OK to default on our obligations. It is not OK to create a crisis. This is not a game. Real lives and livelihoods are on the line.
House Republicans own this mess. No amount of spin will change that. Do they really expect rational people to believe the Senate or Obama is at fault?
As a Republican, I’m sick over this and disgusted with the callousness of their actions. And Boehner should be ashamed. He allowed the members of his caucus who acted as children having temper tantrums to be rewarded for bad behavior.
It only takes 17 House Republicans to stop this foolishness. Fortunately, some Republican members of the House are now stepping forward to try to correct this reckless act.
How to fix? Send to the Senate a clean continuing resolution to fund government. Vote out a debt limit increase without conditions. Then sit down with the Senate and the president to address unresolved issues such as debt reduction, Obamacare glitches, and immigration reform in true, good-faith negotiations.
Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland.