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AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
There is a lot of talk around the country about the government shutdown. Who is responsible for it? Who is preventing it from ending? Are the reasons for forcing it reasonable and acceptable? Is it fair and proper to link it to repeal or alteration of the Affordable Care Act(ObamaCare)?
Allow me to offer my own succinct answers to those questions. They are, in order: Republicans – Republicans – No – and No.
All that may be no big surprise coming from me, a lifelong Democrat from Massachusetts. But frankly, it’s hard to see or even comprehend how any reasonable person could honestly give any other answer. The factsare clear, the motives quite visible, and the methods nakedly obvious. This is a power play gone bad, carried out beyond the previously respected rules of acceptable behavior for national politicians – such as they were.
Here’s the bottom line, which I am far from the first to point out.
Republicans are a deeply divided party, with the most conservative members firmly in control of many of the primary election processes. In most places where republican incumbents exist, they must at least appear to be moving to the right of the political spectrum if they wish to survive a primary battle and retain their party’s nomination.
The clearest and most popular way to demonstrate that these days is to be in favor of repealing the ACA, an existing law despised by conservatives in particular. In fact, Republicans in the House have succeeded in passing over 40 different repeals of the health care law, only to have them defeated in the Senate.
Now Tea Party members and others have forced Republicans into a tight political box. They want the ACA repealed, or changed so much it results in a de facto repeal. They don’t have the votes to do it in the usual, traditional and American manner. So they are attempting to achieve their goal by shutting down the government and threatening to fail to fund expenditures they (Congress) have already approved with their own vote.
In other words, they are attempting to extort the President and Democrats by threatening to destroy the economy unless if they don’t get their way.
This is not a new ploy, nor one used by Republicans only. Political extortion is done regularly utilizing a variety of issues. It is not unusual for a bill seeking to do one thing to be loaded with totally unrelated amendments in order to win enough support to get it passed. Democrats are just as guilty of that as Republicans.
But using the credit-worthiness of the United States as a weapon to repeal legislation passed by both houses, signed by the president, and the centerpiece of the last Presidential election? Well, that’s pretty new territory.
Imagine this scenario for a second, if you will. Suppose Democrats control the House and Republicans control the Senate. Suppose those House Democrats were determined to enact gun control legislation because those on the far left of their own party were demanding it,making it a major issue in primary elections. Plus, like current Republicans, they believed in their ultimate goal.
So Democrats in the House engineer a shutdown of the government while pretending to just want negotiations. They threaten to refuse to raise the debt ceiling, even though it is necessary to fund what they have already voted. They hold America hostage in an attempt to institute new gun control laws, because they lack the votesto achieve it through the normal legislative process.
The reaction on the Republican side would be even worse than what we are currently witnessing from Democrats. There would be charges Democrats were cheating the process and the public. And those charges would be valid.
If Republicans want to change the ACA, they must do it the right way. They cannot undermine the very basis of American government for their own political purposes. Their actions are outrageous, indefensible, selfish andjust plain wrong. They are now politically boxed in by their own arrogance and ambition, and are desperately searching for a way to save face.
You want to change the ACA? Ok, take your best shot. But respect the laws of this land and the processes that change them.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.