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

Thursday, October 10, 2013

You'd Think They'd Learn

We all know that both political parties have secret strategy meetings on how to get what they want, but the problem is when you have a meeting like the one before the 2012 election to discuss how to destroy the Obama presidency that becomes public or a meeting with donors in which you state 47% of the people don't matter, I would think they would be careful about future meetings when they have one in which they discuss how to create a federal budget crisis. But as the New York Times reported, the Republicans didn't figure that out. They even published the plan on the web.

Their plan to defund the Health Care Law is published on a website, and the letter, signed by a former attorney general and several conservatives actually contains a statement that they will need to use the continuing resolution: "Obamacare’s funding mechanisms are as complicated as the law itself, but they can be stopped through the appropriation process, which includes the upcoming continuing resolution."

This was soon followed by the Tea Party favorite and new faux Speaker of the House, Senator Ted Cruz, meeting shortly before the August recess about setting up the defunding and shutting down the government according to Rolling Stone. So there really was a plan to use the CR by the Right Wing of the Republican Party. One that they were assured by Cruz would be ultimately supported by the American public. The problem is that it wasn't true. This lays the current shut down and possible default of the U.S. squarely at the feet of the party, particularly their far right.

Still a number of folks are wondering why isn't Obama's refusal to negotiate any different than the Republican's refusal? The answer is that there is more here than just negotiating, and it dates back to the fiscal cliff and the negotiation of the debt ceiling in 2011, the passage of the CR from the Senate, and how the Debt Ceiling has been used in the past. Obama has stated a number of times that if the House will pass a clear Continuing Resolution and Debt Ceiling, he will negotiate with Republicans, but he will not do so while they are "holding the country hostage." This is not a refusal to negotiate, but a setting of terms to start the process.

First was the attempt to use the Affordable Care Act as a reason to shut down the government. The clean CR from the senate was already a compromise, actually more of surrender. The CR sent by the senate was well below both Obama's budget request and the even lower Democrat controlled Senate's request. It was close to the original Paul Ryan budget complete with sequester level cuts. Even more interesting is the CR, which is a result of no budget, is that since March the House was asked 18 to 20 times to conference on the budget and refused to send a group to do so. Who is refusing to sit down at the table?

Next was the passage of the CR by the House to defund the Affordable Care Act despite the fact they were told the Senate would not pass any CR that had any effect on the law. The law is three years old, was passed by both houses, approved as constitutional by a conservative Supreme Court and held in referendum in the 2012 presidential election. In other words, it went through exactly what majority rule means in the Constitution. Those opposed lost. Next it is the signature legislation of a President who does not have to run for re-election. The House had already run 42 votes to defund the act. Forty-two votes they knew would go no further than House. Does anyone there remember the definition of insanity?

So here is what the Republicans called compromise in the CR vote: Defund the ACA or we shut down the government; Strip the ACA of the individual mandate and the give employers the right to determine what part of coverage of women they will pay for or we shut down the government; delay the Individual Mandate for a year and lift the medical equipment tax or we shut down the government. You also need to realize the individual mandate and the tax on medical equipment are also ways of funding the ACA without tapping into the Federal budget. In other words, the law is already funded.

Look at what was being offered this way: "Give me your house or I will burn it down - No? Okay Give me your house or I will burn down your garage - No? Give me the house or I will break all the windows? No? You’re not negotiating." Do you now see how a small group of the house Republicans are holding the government as hostage? They were not offering anything that could be compromised on or anything that should be compromised on and all because of an extreme Right plan.

The other issue is the debt ceiling. Speaker Boehner has pointed out that 27 times the Debt Ceiling has been used for major program change. That is not true. Twenty-seven times the Debt Ceiling has been included into major budget bills which did bring change rather than having a separate vote on an unnecessary evil that has become a part of congressional governing. I say unnecessary because the US is perhaps the only country on the planet that requires a vote to approve the paying of bills that have already been approved.

The debt ceiling has been regularly raised since its inception in 1917. It has been raised at least 78 times since 1960 and only twice has any group threatened not to raise it in its history: 2011 and 2013. The Democrats made a mistake on negotiating over it in 2011 and the fiscal cliff in 2012, and you now know why they are refusing in 2013. If it happens, one small group of one half of one branch of the government will essentially dictate the terms of how the government functions. It doesn't matter which party, it will become the norm if it is allowed to continue. It will fundamentally change the balance of power that we all learned about in school. It has to be stopped now before that occurs.  

The list of items being demanded by the Tea Party Republicans of the House is expansive, but they have not offered anything they will compromise on. Nothing. Go ahead search for it. I'll wait...

Now you see what the issue is. The refusal to negotiate is not holding the government hostage but protecting the balance of the constitution. It is a truly scary standoff and all because one man will not bring a clean CR to the House floor because he could lose his Speakership. All because what were once called moderate Republicans fear more of being primaried by the Tea Party rather than facing a general election. Welcome to what happens when gerrymandering goes on. Extreme members of a group are secure in that they can get away with almost anything and not lose an election.