Poised to shutdown the government Oct. 1, the Republican controlled House passed legislation to keep the government funded through Dec. 15 while delaying implementation of Obamacare for one year and rescinding a medical device tax. Knowing that the legislation runs counter to Senate’s legislation and will certainly result in a government shutdown, GOP House members pressed ahead with the bill. Rank-and-file House members, largely backed to first-term Tea Party zealots, seem hell-bent on upending the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature legislation since taking office Jan. 20, 2009. Playing a dangerous game of chicken, 63-year-old House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) showed a penchant for brinkmanship, over the kind of leadership urgently needed to stop a government shutdown. Boehner can’t stop the mutiny inside the House GOP.
Periodic raises in the nation’s debt ceiling have been part of the government’s history since the days of George Washington. House Republicans, especially the Tea Party class of 2010, have insisted on the so-called sequester that took place Jan. 1, 2013, forcing the government to take $1 trillion in mandatory spending cuts. House Republicans insist that without the mandatory spending cuts, the U.S. economy would crack like Humpty Dumpty. Now they want to prevent the government from raising the national debt by $16.7 trillion, the amount determined by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to keep the government operating until the next crisis. When asked why reducing government spending or holding down the national debt are important, the House GOP can’t tell you why. Other than opposing anything that President Barack Obnama wants, the GOP has no answers.
Practically every reputable U.S. economist has urged the House to pass the debt ceiling and go easy on mandatory spending cuts. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, a specialist on the Great Depression, urged the GOP House to minimize spending cuts because they hurt economic recovery. When the economy crashed under former President George W. Bush in 2007, the GOP had no answer other than slashing government spending. Tea Party Republicans want to slash spending not because of some sound economic principle because their ideology rejects the idea of government entitlements. When 42-year-old Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attempted to filibuster Obamacare Sept. 27 reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” into the Senate record, he insisted Obamacare was a “job killer.” Every reputable economist says the opposite.
Before allowing the sequester to become law last year, the GOP insisted it was necessary to deal with federal budget deficits. Since the economic recovery in 2009, U.S. budget deficit has steadily shrunk as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. When it peaked in 2009 at $1.4 trillion, the GOP blamed Obama’s economic policies, even though the president was in office for less than a month. Today’s Congressional Budget Office projects a $604.7 billion deficit in 2013, the lowest fraction of GDP since former President Bill Clinton balanced the U.S. budget in 1999. House Republicans led by Boehner insist Obama must negotiate with them in good faith to delay Obamacare and approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Obama has told Boehner there can be not arm-twisting over the debt ceiling, since the GOP approved the budget that included current expenditures.
Playing brinkmanship with a government shutdown, the GOP-dominated House puts ideology above the good of the country. When the debt ceiling was last debated in 2011, S&P downgraded U.S. credit Aug. 5, 2011, sending Wall Street into a nosedive. With the economy still teetering on recession, a government shutdown would almost certainly pull the rug out from underneath Wall Street, sending the economy into a double-dip. Wall Street is still digesting Bernanke’s Sept. 18 decision to continue the Fed’s $85 billion a month bond-buying programs known as QE3. Bernanke would have “tapered” if the economy were on solid ground. Playing chicken with the debt ceiling shows the same kind of dysfunction that prompted S&P to downgrade U.S. credit. There’s simply no rhyme-or-reason for the current brinkmanship other than the GOP House trying to impose its right wing agenda.
Today’s collision course with a government shutdown has no logic other than opposing President Barack Obama. All reputable economists agree that a shutdown could have catastrophic consequences on the U.S. economy, including sinking Wall Street and the jobs market. “To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and repeal of the medical device tax,” said Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), putting the House GOP on notice that the government shutdown is in their hands. “We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop the government shutdown,” said House Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Vir.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.),” setting up the collision course to shutdown the U.S. government.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.