“Mr. Boehner, tear down this wall!”
–with apologies to Ronald Reagan
As we continue to endure the shutdown of the federal government — or as the Republicans prefer to call it, the “slim-down” — it is just too easy to be outraged. Unfortunately, that does not help and does not get us anywhere. Even more dangerously, we are approaching the point where the good faith and financial reliability of the United States will be in jeopardy.
I am confused, however, by the tactics of the Republican members of the House. Either that, or those tactics are so blatantly obvious that even I can understand them. There does not seem to be any over-all strategy in what they are doing.
I constantly shake my head each day as I remember that all of this fuss is over a Continuing Resolution. It is not about solving the economic problems that we as a nation face. It is over a six-week Continuing Resolution (CR). It seems pretty clear to me that passing that CR and then beginning negotiations on the larger problems and issues we face is the way to go. The Senate and the President have both already said that they would agree to discuss “anything” that the House Republicans put on the table, but not without opening up the government and giving us some breathing room on the debt ceiling. The inside the Beltway crowd that tracks such things repeatedly states that there are enough moderate Republicans in the House that will join all of the Democrats in the House to pass such a CR giving enough time to move on to solving bigger problems. Speaker Boehner refuses to allow that to happen. He also states that when (if?) negotiations begin there can be no “red lines” inhibiting the discussions, and in the next breath says there can be no discussion about raising anything that even smells like a tax. What? Say that again. I believe he said there are no red lines except for those he wants to have. That’s what I thought I heard him say. (See this whole thing is getting me so that I’m talking to myself now.)
More confusing is the current Republican tactic in the House that passes individual pieces of a CR to open up selected pieces of the government. Primarily those where they are taking heat from their constituents because of the media attention. Things like the national parks, the National Health Institute, Head Start, etc., all areas where there has been bad publicity concerning the shutdown. On top of that, they passed a bill that essentially pays federal workers to stay home indefinitely. How does that help the nation save money? We are paying more for what some people think we shouldn’t pay for in the first place, but getting nothing for it. Makes no sense to me. I’m glad for the workers that will get their back pay — although that doesn’t help them pay their bills right now — but it doesn’t help all of those workers that do not work for the government but support it. These range all the way from contractors (by definition no contract, no job, no pay) to food truck operators that have government workers as their primary patrons, and hundreds of thousands of others that are not part of the government and not getting paid and will not get back pay.
Now they are trying to turn the tables on Senate Democrats by saying that they’ve helped these people by passing their piecemeal CR for some areas, but that the Senate refuses to take them up. Hey! It’s easy! Just pass one CR for the entire government and all those other piecemeal bills are totally unnecessary. The only reason to do it in bits and pieces is to try to claim that the far right-wing Republicans are not the ones holding things up — it’s the Democrats after all! How silly. It also shows that they hold the citizens of our nation in such low regard that we would not see right through this callous political ploy.
Now we have to worry about the debt ceiling. I think it fair to say that no one knows exactly what will happen when we hit that mark. The United States has never done it. However, I believe it would be reckless to find out. A child has never put their hand on a hot stove before either so they may want to try to find out what “hot” means. A responsible parent, of course, would never allow it. Where are the responsible Republicans in the House? There are many in the Senate. I know there are many in the House as well. Why not speak up and keep us from finding out what happens about a week from now? I suppose to some it is kind of exciting to see what will happen, or to think that you have the power and the means to destroy our nation’s economy. If that is what they are thinking then we used to have a name for people who were trying to destroy our country and surely it was not “patriot.”
I have heard many people saying that this is just business as usual, we’ve been here before, and in the end it will work out. I hope that they are right, but I’m not so sure. This has a different feel to me. Unlike similar developments in the past, I am unaware of any back room or back channel negotiations taking place. Those that have brokered such deals in the recent past, primarily Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell, are noticeably absent in this go around. There is no clear path out of this situation unless Speaker Boehner allows a vote on the clean CR in exchange for some defined negotiations over budget issues (not Obamacare). Right now he does not seem inclined to take yes for an answer as the President has already promised to do that. I know that Speaker Boehner does not want to go over the fiscal cliff and that he wants to re-open the government, but I don’t know that he knows how to get out of this situation. And that is scary.
If you remember my earlier posts concerning Syria, I provided an outline of how planners put together an operation. Of foremost importance was understanding the mission, and that includes what things should look like when the mission is accomplished. How do you know that it is over? I also discussed branches and sequels if the plan does not go as expected — either through unanticipated success, or unanticipated obstacles. If the hard-core Republican position is the end of Obamacare, then they have already failed in their mission. They are not going to get it out of this scenario. If their alternate plan is to cut government spending then they have already succeeded through the budget negotiations in 2010 and 2011 and the current sequester. If they see the end state as something else, then it is not clear to me what that would be. Or at least one that they could realistically achieve. That is what makes this scary. At this point I don’t think they know what they want, other than some grand statements about less government spending and smaller government. Okay — if that is their desired end state then what is the plan to get there from here? I have not heard an articulate explanation of what they will do. I have only heard what they will not do. At some point they must have a coherent plan.
I suppose the only way out now is for the Democrats and the President to provide some face-saving concession to Speaker Boehner to give him a life-line to get out of this mess. What that is, or should be, is not clear in my mind. It should not be anything having to do with Obamacare — we’ve been down that road too many times already. It will probably have to do with entitlements and ways to cut spending in those areas, although the President has already offered some of those as the basis to start negotiations and been rejected.
Okay Tea Party Republicans, you’ve had your fun and shown that you cannot be ignored even by your own party. Now what? More importantly, Mr. Boehner, tear down this wall of intransigence!