Since 1986 Republicans have been signing Grover Norquist’s pledge and supporting his efforts to reduce government “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” (1) In the past, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R - Washington) has stated that she thinks “it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious.” (2) While 72% of people recently polled disapproved of “shutting government down due to differences about the health care law,” 48% of Republicans and 57% of Tea Party supporters in the sample approved of the tactic. (3)
Compare this to the Democratic party. For years the Republicans have referred to them as “the party of big government.” (4) The Liberal belief in providing a floor above the flood of desperation for the most underprivileged in society is interpreted as by Conservatives as they “prefer government ‘programs’.” (5) These are not exactly the characteristics of a party that would hold the government hostage and helps explain why “Republicans in Congress receive more of the blame for the shutdown.” (6)
While a TEA Party supporter might “not be the slightest bit worried about a government shutdown,” thinking that we might “find out that there are many things government does that we really don’t need to keep this country going...a government shutdown would actually save us some money,” reality has been quite different. (7) The shutdowns under Gingrich cost the American taxpayers $1.4 billion. (8) Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) told a Park Service employee that “the Park Service should be ashamed of themselves” because the shutdown had closed the World War II memorial, apparently thinking that they had the ability to vote on a clean Continuing Resolution (CR). (9) Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) complained that “the lab animals at NIH are being taken care of, but if you have pediatric cancer, you aren’t” without specifying how The National Institutes of Health (NIH) were supposed to begin medical trials with 75% of their employees furloughed. (10) To dull public outrage over the shutdown the Republicans have tried to separately fund the national parks, the Veterans Affairs Department, city operations for Washington, D. C. and the NIH - making for a very voluminous bathtub.
Apparently missing from the Republican’s radar are those affected by closures in Head Start programs, participants in the WIC program, those receiving federally guaranteed loans, people who rely on the protection of federal regulations and private businesses that rely on Federal workers who are now furloughed. These people and many more likely agree with John Boehner’s assessment that “this isn’t some damn game.” (11) The Speaker could end the shutdown by scheduling a vote on a clean CR, but would risk the wrath of the TEA Party. To successfully get himself out of the corner that he has backed himself into he must thread the needle between Rand Paul, who thinks that “we’re gonna win this” (12) and Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-Indiana) who insists “we’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t even know what that even is.” (13) This is where the Democrats need to step up to the plate and propose some solutions to the complaints that Republicans have about Obamacare.
It is true that the CR that already cleared by the Senate disproves the allegation by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R Virginia) that the shutdown has been caused by a “President that seems to be unwilling to sit down and talk to us.” (14) In fact, this measure represents an 18% decrease in the amount the President originally projected for spending in the 2014 fiscal year. (15) To also add changes to a program that has already been funded may seem like a bitter pill to swallow, but this is something that can be done if it is in the spirit of “co-operate and repair” rather than “repeal and replace.”
One of the Republicans’ biggest complaints has been the one year delay in the enforcement of the employee mandate. While we can continue to get bogged down in a philosophical argument over whether the Separation of Powers outlined in the Constitution gives the President the ability to use judgment in the enforcement of a law, the truth is that many Progressives are not happy with this decision. The 4.3% of businesses with at least 50 employees that do not currently offer health insurance should contribute to the system. The Congressional Democrats should, therefore, offer an amendment to compel enforcement of this mandate. (16)
Next up should be a solution to the Republicans’ erroneous allegation that Congress is exempt from Obamacare. In reality, Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) amendment to the Affordable Care Act actually increased Congress’ participation by putting them and their staffers into the exchanges that were designed for people without employer provided health insurance. As the only people in the plan with employer coverage, the law “didn’t offer a clear way for Congress to continue paying a part of its employee’s health premiums, as most public and private employer do.”(17) After consulting with both Boehner and Harry Reid, the administration did come up with a plan to have the government to continue subsidizing their employees’ insurance, but this has been derided. Instead, the Democrats should propose legislation to delete the Grassley amendment and put Congress on an even footing with everyone else.
If history is any indication, the Republicans would respond to solutions like the ones above by simply moving the goal posts once again. After all, the fact that the law is based on a Conservative idea has not stopped them from describing it in terms like “the worst law passed in the last four decades by the federal government.” (18) However, it might finally end any allegation that Democrats are not willing to compromise.
(3) (6) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57605822/poll-americans-not-happy-about-shutdown-more-blame-gop/
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