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Monday, Jul 14, 2014
Editorials

Congress’ dangerous political game

Published:

Congressional Republicans ready to shut down the government to eliminate funding for Obamacare are badly serving Americans and the conservative cause.

To risk laying off hundreds of thousands of defense and other federal workers, closing national parks and threatening other services is, as Republican commentator Ben Stein put it on CBS’ “Sunday Morning,” “a flight from adult responsibility that is just not morally defensible.”

We agree with the Republicans that Obamacare will be an intrusive and costly program that will further entangle the government in medical decisions.

The GOP should continue to fight to revise or jettison the law through the democratic process.

But for a minority branch of government to stomp its feet and demand its way, regardless of the law or the impact on the government and the public, is a sure way to lose the support of Americans.

Republican consultant Karl Rove reported in The Wall Street Journal last week that polls conducted by his Crossroads GPS organization in 10 battleground states found that 60 percent of independent voters are opposed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

But the same polls showed that 58 percent of those independents also oppose defunding Obamacare if it means shutting down parts of the government.

The results do not seem contradictory to us, but suggest those independent voters have more respect for the democratic process than the firebrands advancing this dangerous brinkmanship.

The reality is that the Democrats control the Senate and the presidency, thanks to last year’s elections.

As former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose intelligence and maturity are badly needed at the national level, told the National Press Club last week: “I’d just add a little dose of reality. If you control one-half of one-third of leverage in Washington, D.C., your ability to influence things are also relative to the fact that you have one-half of one-third of the government.”

With this congressional scheme, a minority of elected officials holds the government hostage to get its way.

That’s a dangerous strategy.

Those applauding the House tactics should consider how they would feel if the positions were reversed and the Democrats were pulling such shenanigans against a Republican majority.

The Republicans who believe voters will blame President Barack Obama for a shutdown are likely mistaken. The majority of citizens may not care for the law, but they don’t expect the president or Democratic senators to suddenly abandon it — especially not after last year’s election and Supreme Court ruling.

Republicans will surely suffer the fallout from any shutdown.

They may suffer even more grievous consequences should they also try to use a bill to increase the nation’s borrowing limit later this fall to similarly defund or delay Obamacare.

The increase in borrowing allows the government to pay bills it already has incurred. A debt default would severely damage the nation’s financial credibility and undermine its economy.

Putting the livelihoods and investments of Americans at risk for political effect is, as Stein puts it, morally indefensible.

This doesn’t mean Republicans shouldn’t continue to fight Obamacare, push legislation to revise it and remind voters how the law was rammed through without sufficient debate or review.

The Republicans are on the right side of the health care debate and will ultimately prevail if they take their case to voters and trust democracy to work.

But the House’s scorched-earth tactics look to be more an act of mutiny than conservative leadership. It can’t succeed, and it risks alienating the voters who do have the authority to put Obamacare in its place.

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