Shutdown: A fight with no room for compromise

By Bill Schneider
October 2, 2013

To end the government shutdown, all Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) needs to do is let the House of Representatives vote on a budget. It would pass within 30 minutes. Virtually all 200 House Democrats would vote to keep the government open, as would as many as 50 Republicans. An easy majority.

But no. Boehner and other Republican leaders refuse to do that because they are in thrall to Tea Party conservatives. Hard-line conservatives number about 50 out of 232 House Republicans. But those conservatives are threatening to lead an insurrection against party leaders if they dare to allow a vote. Other Republican members are terrified that they will face a tough primary challenge from the right if they don’t go along with the Tea Party.

So what have we got? Minority government.

It’s outrageous when you think about it. Hard-line conservatives are blocking majority rule so they can get their way. They insist they are taking a stand on principle. Why? “Because we’re right, simply because we’re right,” one of them told the New York Times.

What principle? The principle that the Affordable Care Act is an unconstitutional expansion of government power and that President Barack Obama is not a legitimate president.

But didn’t the Supreme Court rule back in June that Obamacare is constitutional? It did. A Tea Party activist protested at the time, “Just because the Supreme Court says something is constitutional doesn’t mean it is.”

And didn’t the voters re-elect Obama last year? They did. But hard-line conservatives insist that’s only because Republicans put up a candidate who wasn’t a true conservative.

Conservatives have a talent for denying facts. “The American people overwhelmingly reject Obamacare,” Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Meet the Press, “They understand it’s not working.”

Do they? Well, the public has always been skeptical of the Affordable Care Act. Americans polled last week by Quinnipiac University were split over the new healthcare law — 45 percent support it and 47 percent oppose it.

But do they favor Congress cutting off funding for the law? No, by 58 percent to 34 percent. Do they favor shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the healthcare law? No, 72 percent to 22 percent. As for the law “not working,” people just started signing up on Monday. More than a million Americans visited the Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, before 7:00 a.m. Monday morning. Sure, there were glitches. The site was overloaded.

There is no way Republicans can win this fight. We’re already seeing polls that show Democrats building a lead over Republicans when voters are asked how they will vote for Congress. The Quinnipiac poll shows a 9-point Democratic lead — the biggest margin so far.

That has a lot of congressional Republicans freaking out. They’re rushing to try to restore spending on popular programs like veterans’ benefits and national parks. But Obama and congressional Democrats are holding fast. They know they’ve got the leverage.

Don’t Republicans remember what happened the last time they shut down the government in 1996? President Bill Clinton coasted to re-election.

Conservatives argue that what hurt Republicans in 1996 wasn’t the shutdown. It was the “surrender.” They believe they lost because they gave in too quickly instead of keeping the government closed.

What exactly do Republicans think they can accomplish with this maneuver? Some are using terms like “the Alamo” and “Custer’s Last Stand” — glorious defeats, fighting for a noble cause. Thank goodness nobody has mentioned the Confederacy as the great Lost Cause.

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) reminded her Senate colleagues that the issue here is the federal budget. It’s a debate over money, she said, “not about political or ideological viewpoints.”

Actually, that’s exactly what Republicans insist it is about. “This is a matter of core principle,” one Republican congressman said.

A budget is supposed to be a fight over interests. Interests can be negotiated and compromised.

But you can’t make deals if this is a fight over values, which is what conservatives claim it is. Values are about right and wrong. There’s no room for compromise.

Conservatives are demanding that Obama agree to put off the individual mandate to purchase health insurance for one year. Why is that such a big deal? The answer is: Because it would kill the healthcare program. If we delay the mandate, insurance companies will still have to cover people with preexisting conditions. Older and sicker people, desperate for insurance, would sign up. As a result, insurance premiums would skyrocket. The country would face a wave of protests.

Some conservatives want to delay the whole Obamacare program for a year. They have an ulterior motive. They expect Republicans to win control of the Senate in the midterm elections next year and then take the White House in 2016. That would put them in a position to kill off Obamacare forever — as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney promised to do if he had won the election. It will be much harder to kill Obamacare if it is already in place.

Meanwhile, mainstream Republicans are getting increasingly concerned about facing a backlash at the polls next year. They have good reason to worry. Far from rallying to the anti-Obamacare cause, voters are expressing anger and disgust with Congress.

Contempt of Congress happens to be a crime. If that’s the case, millions of Americans may be facing arrest any minute now. Because contempt of Congress is exactly what they are expressing.

 

PHOTO (Top): House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks to the media at 1:00 am, immediately after the House of Representatives voted to send their funding bill with delays to Obamacare into a conference with the Senate, prompting a shutdown of portions of the government in Washington, October 1, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

PHOTO (Insert): Senator Ted Cruz talks to reporters after the Senate passed a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, sending the issue back to the House of Representatives, at the Capitol in Washington, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

23 comments

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I’m sorry, but is the writer insane? He even writes the opposition to his perspective is 47% to 45% support…a week ago. At the time of the vote every single republican senator voted against as did 34 democratic senators, this at a time when public opposition was 58%.
And what is so far fetched about a one year delay that obama himself, contrary to existing law, is giving to the corporations? Where did he get the power to unilaterally alter a law?
Sorry, but it is a horrendous concept having the government criminalize its citizens for not purchasing the product of private, for-profit corporations.

Posted by stambo2001 | Report as abusive

Look fool, the individual mandate was a CONSERVATIVE idea. It only became “unconstitutional” when Obama, the Great Evil One, included it in his healthcare initiative. This writer is spot on. Republicans view any Democrat in the White House as illegitimate. This idea of delaying the law is NOTHING more than a way to try and kill it. Once people start using the new ACA, these fools know they will never be able to kill it, because on balance it is an excellent law! Lord help us if you right-wing-nuts ever get control of this country!!

Posted by rmetro1 | Report as abusive

Just because something is constitutional, doesn’t mean that it is smart, popular or anything else other than it doesn’t violate someone’s right. People do constitutional things all of the time that most everyone else would think are stupid. Ever heard of Youtube? Similarly, a US birth certificate doesn’t necessary make a great, or even a good president. We have a number of presidents who had birth certificates and I am sure there are some horrible ones on that list. Face it, the only thing EITHER PARTY can do right now or appears interested in doing right now is exercising their constitutional right to put the blame on the other party.

For me, there is one existential issue on the plate right now for the US, that is, debt must be signigicantly reduced. Congress has a history of raising revenues and then raising debt to soak up the revenues plus some (arguably, that’s their character), so that’s not the answer.

As painful as it is, I prefer to see the debt addressed now. Until both sides feel pain, there will be no deal, so let the pain begin now. Until it gets to the place where there is MEMORABLE pain for all the Government leadership, to the point that they will proactively keep us out of this and other growing debt situations, I hope there is no deal.

Posted by CSquirrel | Report as abusive

Having in mind that we are on Reuters, could avoid bi-partisan arguing?
All the U.S. sources are full of irrational mud-throwing.

I suggest that we pay attention to legal aspects of the institutional deadlock.

What is a possible compromise?
What are scenarios related to the 14th amendment?
Is there a chance that this unprecedented stand-off could bring a change?

I suggest a broader discussion.

Posted by OUTPOST2012.NET | Report as abusive

Let’s just be honest. 99% of the world is in jail anyway. They have their meet hooks into every cow, one way or the other. There is nothing else to loose if all of humanity is on ICU care or imprisoned anyway. At some point, it is just more ethical to pull the plug.

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive

Seriously, John do you want to have a nice bottle of home made wine (nectar) and cuddle?

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive

“Rebuffed by Congress, by the electorate and by the Supreme Court, the far right has resorted to the time-honored tactics of spoiled children everywhere: a take-no-prisoners temper tantrum. Of course, not only are the Ted Cruz Tea Party Extremists taking their own party down to the ground, the problem is they also are trying to take down the nation.”

Posted by Leftcoastrocky | Report as abusive

It is a great irony that, in large part, the Tea Party is carrying out the wishes of the top 1%.

Posted by bcrawf | Report as abusive

This article gets it sort of right, except it’s not the “conservatives” who have taken over. The super-rich Plutocracy took over years ago and they not only have not relinquished their power over government, but have only grown more powerful, MUCH more powerful. The One Percenters Club now dictates to the Pee-Ons, the 99%. Taxpayer funds were used to cover the gambling losses of the too-big-to-fail/too-big-to-prosecute Wall Street Casinos that benefit the ultra wealthy. Wake up.

Our republic of the people, by the Plutocracy and for the very rich is now well established. Get over it. Bow down to the masters of deceit. Kiss their feet and empty your wallets into their coffers, most of which is sent to overseas, tax-free bank accounts. It works for Mitt Romney…

Posted by ptiffany | Report as abusive

Conservatives carry on about the costs, direct and wrapped-around, of having universal health care for all Americans. They only ever talk about money. This costs too much. That would kill jobs. The government shouldn’t put a tax on medical devices.

It would be nice for them to explain why it’s better for Americans to live yet another year without medical insurance. Explain why it’s better to allow the hospitals to pass their emergency room costs on to the bills of those who have health insurance, and why it’s better for medical carriers to increase their scheduled amounts to allow the hospitals to recupe the expense of treating the uninsured.

I want conservatives, most of whom profess to be scrupulous devotees of Jesus Christ, to explain why it’s moral to deny affordable healthcare to those who have current or recent illnesses. Explain how their devotion to Jesus Christ is demonstrated by denying to those who cannot pay the very thing that their Savior freely gave to all who asked.

If the only thing you can judge universal health care by is the expense you might incur, you need to re-examine your beliefs about the value of human life. Are you as decent a person as you ought to be???

Posted by UrDrighten | Report as abusive

Obamacare would benefit tens of millions of uninsured and working-class Americans. Just as Social Security and Medicare (also Democratic programs) did decades ago.

Why on Earth would anybody expect Republican politicians and their billionaire backers to be for it?

Posted by jrpardinas | Report as abusive

“Thank goodness nobody has mentioned the Confederacy as the great Lost Cause.”

No, they are not delusional enough yet to be naming the Confederacy as their icon in public; that discussion stays behind the closed doors of the anarchists’ headquarters, since they stole the keys to the People’s House.

And considering the GOP Congressmen and a few loudmouthed airhead women like BachMAN and Black(burn)heart, have violated their oath of office, they earned the contempt.

Posted by sylvan | Report as abusive

My Message to Michele Bachmann and you:

Reopen the government!

What an ego you tea party members must have to put 800,000 workers out of work. Then of course there are all the contractors who rely on the feds for their income. Thanks for making sure growth this year will be ZERO [due] to your shenanigans. Your husband made his money by making lgbt people loath themselves and now you’re high and mighty misusing a .gov entension for your party (teapartycaucus-bachmann.house.gov) And how do you justify that? How much did that cost the taxpayers? OH but that’s ok because you’re special I suppose — IN YOUR MIND!

GET OFF YOUR ASS, GET YOUR MINIONS IN LINE, AND PASS THE GODDAMNED BUDGET you hypocritical so-called Christian! And don’t even stall on the debt ceiling. Or, are you willing to cause a world economic collapse, too?

Posted by madashellfedemp | Report as abusive

Boehner, clean CR and raise the debt limit and then conference committee to work out a grand bargain — in that order.

Posted by Leftcoastrocky | Report as abusive

Those that bring pain upon themselves are masochists, which is what the teaparty is doing. So, perhaps if we just promise to whip them a couple times a day that will suffice for them, and their followers, who also want the pain.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

The crime is to be held in the contempt of Congress.

The body has so little discernment, most people would consider it a compliment.

Posted by Steve71 | Report as abusive

It is a crime to be held in contempt of Congress but it isn’t a crime to have contempt for congress.

Posted by DaudM | Report as abusive

You would think the tea party conservatives would hate a government shutdown. Why? Because they claim we spend too much money in the government, the government is too big. By throwing 800,000 federal workers out of their jobs during this shutdown, those government employees will be home instead of working, possibly collecting unemployment and then possibly getting paid once this dumb shutdown is over. It’s going to cost the taxpayer so much more money than by just doing the right thing and sending in a clean bill on the continuing resolution. It makes no sense for republicans to continue on this way.

Posted by PoliticsUgh | Report as abusive

I disagree with this article, it is opinion and written well, but as opinion it leaves out poignant facts or thoughts. For instance, the Reps. are not simply calling the Obama Care unconstiutional, there are legitimate reasons for concern with the ACA… I am glad someone is addressing it. Because, a bankrupt government is trying to fund a huge health care system, in beaucratic style that only reminds me of the efficiency and monetary responsibilty of the IRS, for supposedly millions upon millions of individuals, without any care to its effect on the medical institutions and on the tax payers that bear the weight. For example, many hospitals have sold, and health care practices. I site Kaiser Permenente in Ohio as one. Lots of people lost their jobs. True fact, look it up. Also, in the spirit of American equality, and not oligarchy or communism reminscent of the KGB… why are government officials and special intrest groups exempt from Obamacare again? I mean, if its good enough for the American people who are breathing human souls with the same value as the POTUS, why is not good enough for him? I don’t know, when someone serves me a drink they won’t drink… I just don’t trust it, you know what I mean? Somethings up.

Secondaly, its true, it doesn’t matter if the US Court decides something is Constitutional… by law that means that it is “deamed” as Constitutional, but in principal and ideology? Its a nine panel justice system, that should be voting on the ligitimacy of a law, however, nine people are fallible, the courts are only as good as the judges or juries they are made up of.

Thirdly, yes, people are skeptical of the ACA… polls show. And some places are claiming the Obama Care is already out of money… well heck, the government is out would make sense if the ACA would be too.

Also, why is a conservative republican considered a tea partier? Proof? Tea party is its own entity, and was not apart of the republican party. It has tried to not be annexed or absorbed into the Republican party, to be able to give a voice and support for those constituents that do not agree with either party and wanted a third party representing their ideology… they are not republican. Regardless of how they are painted. However, some republicans and maybe dems or independents may agree with their stance. But its not the Tea Party organizing this.

And on top of that, the author claimed the gridlock was a rule of the minority… and we have a problem with this why? I mean, lots of minorities in our country have taken power and want their voices heard, vast minorities even. Minority races, minority sexual orientation, minorities religious or non-religious sects. You name it, and we accomodate it… but not when its for the Republican party? Hu. Polls say most people believe in God, but we certainly don’t show that in our government funded schools or law. Clearly, we don’t follow majority. This may sound a little out of context, but our laws and policies accomodate the minority, why not in this issue? In fact, we bow down to the minority… all in an effort for Political Correctedness mind you. I guess what Im saying is, if you don’t want minorities to have power, don’t give it culturally to anyone… in minority. Let majority rule.

However, I think we should give some lead to the minority, because, majority isn’t always right, and sometimes the minority is the sane group and need to be given power as well… thats why we have the Senate, to give voting power to the little guys.

Some thoughts. I understand this is an opinion article, but I fear some are treating it as an article of fact.

Posted by Lescia | Report as abusive

Urdrighton, Jesus doesn’t prevent you from getting health care insurance companies do.

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive

The insurance scam and illusion, ranks people into tiers. You can have what they think you are entitled to. A physician treating their patient has sovereign domain over health care. The scammers need to get the he!! out of the way of health. The insurance company employee with a high school education or GED gets to sit in between that sacred relationship and argue and tell the doctor what to do! Are you kidding me? You really think this is appropriate? Plato and Socrates PLEASE HELP.

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive

In the casino racket, they have departments. Every good business owner is aware that they need to examine each department separately for efficiency and quality control. That is how you get the most profit from your investment. We The People want to look at the peoples business that is our HOME LAND called AMERICA. We want our finances and business models and systems examined for quality control, so we don’t get fleeced further into G-zero. We like American sovereignty, that was a gift from GOD to US. We need to tend to our garden and our soil or the pests, weeds and rouge chickens (multi-national corporations aka plantation owners) will destroy it. Business and Farming 101.

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive

If the screeching Progressives writing for Rooters, and those commenting here, want to turn this political controversy into a religious war then there is no telling were this fight stops. As much blood as you have dripping from your mouths already one would think you’d would be a least briefly reflective in the matter.

You clowns actually think you can just completely dismiss the honest expression of political opinion by 30-40% or more of the nations population with the snap of your fingers and an edict from the White House?

Foolish. Stupid, even. And not gonna happen. Home boyz.

You morons haven’t figured out the nature of the problem, and until you do this will continue to escalate. This isn’t about health insurance or debt ceilings or any of that. This is about disenfranchisement. This is about marginalization. This is about the unlawful usurpation of power.

This is about the kind of disenfranchisement and marginalization and usurpation that is guaranteed NOT to be allowed in this country by virtue of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Proceed now, please with your inanities and stupidity, please. The argument will continue until Mr. Obama and the Progressive leadership cease and desist from their scorched earth tactics.

Posted by HamsterHerder | Report as abusive