I’ve couched my plea in Reaganesque terms, in the hope of promoting bi-partisan appeal. The power to end this tiresome, needless and risky delay tactic resides completely with the Speaker of the House.
Examining the situation makes that conclusion clear and unambiguous.
First, the so-called Continuing Resolution on the budget is a basic element of the legislative function of government, and properly a matter of routine. Congress appropriates money for all the far-flung functions of the federal government. We can argue the wisdom of deficits vs. surpluses, military vs. civilian allocations and a hundred other priorities and either/ors, but at the end of the day, it’s a simple underwriting action that simply has to be taken, every year.
Some dissemblers might argue with only a slight smirk that including a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act is just such a financial decision. In context, however, it is an obvious ideological crusade to undermine final implementation of a law passed three years ago, that the GOP-controlled House has already voted to repeal 40-odd times. It is included in the CR only to try to exert maximum minority leverage of the rest of the government, and on the recipients of government services (in other words, everybody).
Second, the only reason that ACA term is included in the Resolution is because the radical Tea Party caucus within the GOP House wing has just enough members (49 or so, out of 435 reps, about 11%) that they are necessary to maintain the Republican majority (234R vs. 201D). They are a visible and disciplined little band, and have made this issue their own private Alamo – somehow convincing the Speaker to take up their cause. Put another way, the tail is directing the elephant.
Third, and most crucially, there are votes aplenty in the House at-large to pass the uncomplicated CR sent over from the Senate, with numerous more-moderate Republicans crossing the aisle to vote it in. Those numbers are growing by the hour. But the GOP has an internal preference (the so-called Hastert Rule, named for a prior Speaker) to only allow general votes on bills that enjoy majority support among Republicans themselves. In other words, if the House today was allowed by the Speaker to vote on the CR – IT WOULD PASS. Only by keeping it bottled-up can this sham ‘crisis’ continue, and the power over the process resides squarely with the GOP leadership.
In summary, the Party that accuses government of being unproductive has, by its own internal rules, forced that government to take utterly unproductive steps to shut itself down (and then soon, to start back up again). It has also preoccupied itself and the national attention with this suicide mission, when it has not acted on other priorities that ARE clearly important to the rational, national interest – like immigration reform. It looks down on the height of folly from a loftier perch.
At this writing, word has come out that Mr. Boehner is signaling that he will not participate in a similar charade regarding the debt ceiling later this month. That’s a good thing, because if the shut-down is a despicable waste of resources (and it is), a default would be a hundred-times worse. As predicted hereabouts in an earlier RC, it may come-out that he has been convinced to refuse that mission by his Party’s financial handlers, to protect their fabulous economic interests. If he survives with his position intact, he’s lucky – most suicide bombers don’t get a second chance.
Perhaps that move was made in the hope that it would make this crusade look better, but it really only makes it look emptier, and worse. If you’re going to shut-down government over an issue, it had better be so damned important that you’d also go over the fiscal cliff for it. Otherwise, it’s revealed to be only a foolish, poorly thought-out exercise in blackmail politics.
This Congressional cold war has to end. Mr. Boehner – tear down this stall!
Synopsis: the GOP has created a budget crisis out of its own internal processes. The Speaker of the House has failed to prevent his Party from acting on its worst, least well-thought-out instincts. It’s in his power to fix it, and he really ought to do so.