Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dysfunction Junction...

See, I told you Congress would still be dysfunctional today.  The question is why? Well there is much going on here, and it will take a bit of explanation so bear with me.

We have had government shutdowns before, but this one is a bit different.  While the only ones that are similar are the shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 during the conflict between Clinton and the Republicans. There are differences.  Republicans proudly took the blame for those shutdowns, and this round both sides are pointing fingers at each other.  The Clinton shutdown was also actually over funding and not over a law that is now over three years old.  The problem, while Republicans claim that their battle over the Affordable Care Act has offered several compromises which are not really compromises.  All the offers have essentially sought to gut the health law.  The other difference is that the Republicans controlled both houses in 95 and 96.  They had won taking control of both houses for the first time in 40 years.  They might have actually survived the first shutdown in 95 but when they went for it again in 96 it cost them their sweeping victory and making Clinton's run for a second term an easy run and even during those shutdowns, Congress still managed to pass appropriations bills.  During this crisis, Obama isn't running again, and I must agree that we cannot continue to govern by crisis. Others will point out that there have been other government shutdowns, but none of those really reach the levels of the last three.  The ones in the 80's between DemocratSspeaker Tip O'Neil and Republican President Ronald Reagan were shutdowns usually involving specific departments of the government not like the more recent shutdowns.

We also  have two parties at war within the Republican party: the old guard Republicans and the Tea Party.  There is also the Libertarian sect which has both Tea Party beliefs on some elements, old guard Republican beliefs on other issues and a set of unique beliefs.  We also know from recordings and videos dating back to 2010 that a number of Tea Party Republicans told their constituents they fully intended to shutdown the government.  If you saw the GOPs leaving the House GOP meeting which resulted in the second Continuing Resolution (CR) which they were told would be rejected by the Senate, Tea Party members of the caucus were giddy at the prospect of what would now become a certain shutdown.

Denis Hastert
Before you accuse me of laying the blame at the feet of Republicans as a liberal attitude, I want to point out something.  If Speaker Boehner had put out a clean CR  with no strings attached before the House it would have passed by as many as 300 votes according to most expert opinions on both sides of the aisle.  It takes 218 votes to pass a resolution in the house.  The use of the Hastert rule by Boehner is the reason for the gridlock.  The Hastert rule is a rule used by Republicans that in order for a bill to be brought to the floor of the House there must be a majority of Republicans for it before it will be presented.  It is not an official rule, but named for a Speaker before Boehner, Dennis Hastert.  So currently in order for any law to be offered for debate and passage a majority of the Republican caucus 118 of the 234 Republicans must support it.  I don't know about you, but it sounds like this rule is a ways from the intentions of how the House as a governing body is supposed to operate.  It means that a small group can basically prevent the Congress from functioning.  Since its use by Boehner in 2010, no significant legislation has been passed. The last two Congresses (2010 and 2012) have passed fewer laws than any other Congress.

The battle is also over a resolution which would fund the government for six week.  Let me say that again, six weeks.  Following the fiscal cliff, the House demanded the Senate pass a budget.  They did.  According to the rules once both Houses pass a funding measure, they should meet in conference and negotiate the difference.  Following the passage of the Senate budget, they have requested this meeting 18 times to fund the government.  The House has refused.  The CR is the baby that has resulted from that refusal.

So the government is closed.  Those of you who are glibly announcing that we are seeing no difference might want to talk to the 700,000 plus government personnel in Washington who aren't getting paid,and while they are furloughed may never recover that loss of pay.  Maybe you should talk to all the businesses who have no customers because national parks, monuments, museums, and other tourist attractions are now closed. Maybe you should talk to the non-military support personnel who are being sent home without pay.  Maybe you should talk to the parents whose children are finding their Head Start facility closed today.  Maybe you should talk to the people at the Center for Disease Control who is no longer tracking disease outbreaks.  Maybe you should talk to the people in business waiting for their quarterly IRS reports and refunds to be processed that aren't getting it processed.  Maybe you should talk to workers at NASA who were sent home without pay because the agency is maintaining a skeleton crew only for astronauts on the space station.

It's not a joke.  This is serious, and it is time to quit playing politics and govern.