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“We Don’t Make Deals With Bullies”: No Yielding On Obamacare, Debt Ceiling Or Government Shutdown

Republicans in the House are like a bunch of 3-year-olds playing with matches. Their hapless leaders don’t have the sense to scold them and send them to their rooms — which means President Obama has to be the disciplinarian in this dysfunctional family.

Mature adults in the GOP should have explained reality to these tantrum-throwing tykes long ago: It simply is not within their constitutional power to make Obamacare go away. They can scream at the top of their lungs, roll around on the floor, hold their breath until they turn blue, waste everybody’s time with 41 useless votes — whatever. All they can really do is hurt themselves or others.

Yet here we are, with Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) cowed into letting his members threaten to shut down the government unless they are allowed to stay up all night watching television and eating candy. Also, unless the Senate and Obama agree to nullify health-care reform before it fully takes effect.

I happen to believe that Obamacare is a great accomplishment, providing access to medical insurance to millions of Americans who lack it and bringing the nation much closer to universal health care. It’s an imperfect law, to be sure, but it could be made much better with the kind of constructive tinkering that responsible leaders performed on Social Security and Medicare.

Even if Obamacare were tremendously flawed, however, it would be wrong to let a bunch of extremist ideologues hold the country hostage in this manner. If Republicans want to repeal the reforms, they should win the Senate and the presidency. If not, they’re welcome to pout and sulk all they want — but not to use extortion to get their way.

At issue is not just the threat of a federal shutdown, which will happen Oct. 1 unless Congress passes a continuing resolution to fund government operations. The debt ceiling has to be raised before the Treasury hits its borrowing limit, which will happen around Oct. 18. If House Republicans don’t kill or neutralize Obamacare with the funding bill, they are ready to threaten the nation — and the global economy — with a potentially catastrophic default.

The proper response — really, the only response — is to say no. And mean it.

Obama is, by nature, a reasonable and flexible man, but this time he must not yield. Even if you leave aside what delaying or defunding Obamacare would mean for his legacy — erasing his most significant domestic accomplishment — it would be irresponsible for him to bow to the GOP zealots’ demands.

The practical impact of acquiescing would be huge. Individuals who have been uninsured are anticipating access to adequate care. State governments, insurance companies and health-care providers have spent vast amounts of time and money preparing for the law to take effect. To suddenly say “never mind” would be unbelievably reckless.

The political implication of compromising with blackmailers would be an unthinkable surrender of presidential authority. The next time he says “I will do this” or “I will not do that,” why should Congress or the American people take him seriously? How could that possibly enhance Obama’s image on the world stage?

Obama has said he will not accept a budget deal that cripples Obamacare and will never negotiate on the debt ceiling. Even if the Republicans carry through with their threats — and this may happen — the president has no option but to stand his ground.

You don’t deal with bullies by making a deal to keep the peace. That only rewards and encourages them. You have to push back.

The thing is, this showdown is a sure political loser for the GOP — and smart Republicans know it. Boehner doesn’t want this fight and, in fact, should be grateful if Obama hangs tough and shows the crazies the limits of their power. Most Republicans in the Senate don’t want this fight. It’s doubtful that even a majority of House Republicans really, truly want this fight, no matter what they say publicly.

But irresponsible demagogues — I mean you, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) — have whipped the GOP base into a frenzy of unrealistic expectations. House members who balk at jumping off the cliff risk being labeled “moderate,” which is the very worst thing you can call a Republican — and the most likely thing to shorten his or her political career.

The way to end this madness is by firmly saying no. If Boehner won’t do it, Obama must.

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 20, 2013

September 21, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Celebrating Misery”: House Republicans’ Ghoulish Defunding Rally

There was something ghoulish about the rally that House Republicans held today in the Rayburn Room after they voted to defund health care reform. The party atmosphere was so boisterous, the cheers and laughter so loud, that it was easy to forget everyone in the room had just voted to keep tens of millions of people from getting health insurance.

By keeping spending at its current levels through mid-December, they had also voted to continue the sequester, which is preventing millions of people from getting public housing subsidies, Head Start seats, and unemployment benefits. The sequester is also taking a serious toll on scientific research and investment in infrastructure, not to mention its infuriating drag on employment and the economic recovery. How about another round of applause?

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, of course, from a House that had voted the previous day to cut food stamps for 3.8 million low-income people, including many very young and very old recipients. But at least they didn’t have a party to celebrate that vote.

Today, though, everyone was in a great mood.

“When we acted, it wasn’t just a group of Republicans, but it was a bipartisan vote,” said Kevin McCarthy, the Majority Whip. (O.K., fine. Two Democrats voted for it, and 188 voted against.) “Let me state that again because I want to make sure you write it correctly. [Huge laughter.] It was a bipartisan vote because we’re Americans first! [Cheers, applause.]”

But some Americans are last, like the millions who would have to get all their medical care from an emergency room if the House had its way. That didn’t seem to bother Eric Cantor, the Republican leader, who pushed through the food-stamp bill and today claimed the health law was turning the country into a part-time economy. (Actually, the recession had started that trend long before President Obama’s health law took effect.)

Mr. Cantor called on Senate Democrats to pass the House bill, which isn’t going to happen, and even named a few from conservative states, like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who Republicans hope to defeat for re-election by linking them to the health law.

What he didn’t mention, though, is that the House’s real beef is with Senate Republicans, not Democrats, many of whom have denounced the extremist tactic of threatening a government shutdown if health reform isn’t defunded. The defeat of the House demand in the Senate is pre-ordained, and when the measure comes back to the House next week without any mention of the health law, and with little time left to avoid a shutdown, the laughter and applause will be long gone.


By: David Firestone, Editors Blog, The New York Times, September 20, 2013

September 21, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hostages Are A Pre-requisite”: Coming To Terms With The Normalization Of Republican Extortion Politics

President Obama spoke yesterday to the Business Roundtable, and used some language to describe Republican tactics that raised a few eyebrows — not because he was incorrect, but because his word choice was provocative.

In his remarks, Mr. Obama accused what he called “a faction” of Republicans in the House of trying to “extort” him by refusing to raise the nation’s debt ceiling unless the president’s health care plan is repealed.

“You have never in the history of the United States seen the threat of not raising the debt ceiling to extort a president or a governing party,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s irresponsible.”

Mr. Obama called upon the business leaders to try to convince lawmakers to avoid the kind of “brinksmanship” that would lead to promises of “apocalypse” every few months. “What I will not do is to create a habit, a pattern whereby the full faith and credit of the united states ends up being a bargaining chip to make policy,” he said. “I’m tired of it,” he added. “And I suspect you are too.”

For the president to publicly reference Republican “extortion” tactics struck some as excessive. That’s a shame; Obama’s right.

Let’s step back for a moment. A traditional, transactional method of governing was in place in Washington for generations, and it worked fairly well. In some cases, policymakers would rely on intra-policy cooperation (“I’ll go along with some of the provisions you want if you go along with some of the provisions I want”), and in other cases it’s been inter-policy cooperation (“I can help move that bill you like if you help me move this other bill that I like”).

The transactional model was never easy, of course, and parties that were supposed to disagree usually did, but governing happened. Bills passed. Policymaking and compromises existed. The nation did not simply bounce from one self-imposed, manufactured crisis to the next.

In the wake of the radicalization of Republican politics, the system broke down, largely because GOP officials came to believe they can no longer accept concessions on anything, and anyone who dares compromise with those they disagree with deserves to lose in a Republican primary.

What matters, of course, is what’s replaced transactional politics.

I tend to describe it as extortion politics, which we may be getting used to, but which has no modern precedent in the American system of government.

Consider an example from earlier this year. House Republicans approved a budget plan and challenged Senate Democrats to do the same, assuming they’d fail. The GOP miscalculated and Senate Dems approved their own budget plan in the spring.

From there, lawmakers were supposed to enter bipartisan, bicameral negotiations, which is what always happens when the House and Senate approve competing budget blueprints. But a funny thing happened — Republicans refused to enter the budget talks they said they wanted.

It hasn’t generated much attention, but it’s important to understand why. GOP lawmakers couldn’t go to the negotiating table because that would mean … negotiating. Republicans weren’t prepared to compromise on anything, so why bother with budget talks? What GOP officials wanted instead was to wait until the fall when they might at least try to claim leverage in an extortion plot.

In other words, hostages have become a prerequisite to Republican governance.

We’ve actually reached the point at which the GOP seems genuinely and literally confused about the meaning of the word “compromise.” Consider this item from a week ago:

One group of conservatives on Thursday pressed what they called a compromise: a one-year stopgap spending bill that would raise the debt ceiling for a year, delay all aspects of the health care law for a year, and give back some of the Pentagon cuts as a sweetener. Backers insisted on Thursday that it was a package Mr. Obama should be able to accept.

Got that? In this approach, Republicans would get the health care delay they want and the spending levels they want. What would Democrats get? Nothing except the relief that comes with knowing that the hostage the GOP was threatening would live to see another day.

This, in the delusional minds of congressional Republicans, is not only a “compromise,” it’s the kind of deal the White House might actually go for.

This has become the norm in every major legislative fight since January 2011. Faced with a challenge, Republicans won’t compromise or consider possible concessions; they’ll instead reach for the nearest hostage and start making threats. The nation shifts from one crisis to the next, not because we have to, but because Republicans have made it their m.o. In the last Congress, Republicans created a debt-ceiling crisis and three separate shutdown threats. In this Congress, we’re only nine months in and we’re already facing a shutdown crisis this month and a new debt-ceiling crisis next month.

In each instance, the GOP approach is the same: so long as our demands are met, and we don’t have to compromise, we won’t have to hurt anyone on purpose.

So before the Beltway gets too bent out of shape over Obama using the word “extort” in a speech, I have a question: can anyone think of a more apt description of what’s tragically become the new status quo in Washington?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 19, 2013

September 21, 2013 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fraticidal Rage”: Ted Cruz Turns Obamacare Defunding Plan From Disaster To Utter Fiasco

Now that the House of Representatives has passed its bill to keep the government open and rid the world of Obamcare, the full strategic disaster the Republicans have embarked upon is coming into focus. The procedure is a little confusing, but once we disentangle the steps, it quickly becomes clear that the Republicans have started a dumpster fire they have no obvious way to extinguish.

It’s important to keep in mind that a government shutdown does not, in and of itself, stop Obamacare from going forward. Most of the money for that law has been appropriated through channels (tax credits, state-based exchanges, etc.) immune to shutdown. The Obamacare-shutdown method relies on the hope that keeping the government shut down proves so annoying to the president that he (or a filibuster-proof majority in both houses) submits to abolishing his health-care reform in return for reopening the government. That is the only way shutting down the government could result in the defunding of Obamacare.

Step one of this far-fetched scheme was the passage of a “continuing resolution,” which keeps the government open, attached to abolishing Obamacare. Now it goes to the Senate. Once that bill comes up for a vote in the Senate, the majority can vote to strip away the provision defunding Obamacare. That vote can’t be filibustered. It’s a simple majority vote, and Democrats have the majority.

What Senate Republicans can do is filibuster to prevent the bill from coming to a vote at all. That’s the only recourse the Senate defunders have. And Ted Cruz is promising to do just that: “ I hope that every Senate Republican will stand together,” he says, “and oppose cloture on the bill in order to keep the House bill intact and not let Harry Reid add Obamacare funding back in.” A “committed defunder” in the Senate likewise tells David Drucker, “Reid must not be allowed to fund Obamacare with only 51 votes.”

In other words, the new stop-Obamacare plan now entails filibustering the defunders’ own bill. They can do this with just 41 votes in the Senate, if they can get them. But consider how terrible this situation is for the Republicans. If they fail, it will be because a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats to break the filibuster, betraying the defunders. This means the full force of the defund-Obamacare movement – which is itself very well funded by rabid grassroots conservatives eager to save the country from the final socialistic blow of Obamacare — will come down on the handful of Senate Republicans who hold its fate in their hands. The old plan at least let angry conservatives blame Democrats for blocking their goal of defunding Obamacare. Now the defunders can turn their rage against fellow Republicans, creating a fratricidal, revolution-eats-its-own bloodletting.

But what if it succeeds? Well, success means the government shuts down because the Senate Republican majority has successfully filibustered a vote on the House bill preventing a shutdown.

Remember, the whole Republican plan to win the shutdown fight is to pin the blame on Obama. Obama is trying to shut down the government, they are already saying, and we’re trying to keep it open. That message depends on both houses of Congress passing a law that defunds Obamacare, and Obama refusing to sign it. Then they can present themselves as having acted to keep the government open, and Obama refusing to go along merely because he doesn’t want to snatch health insurance away from 20 million people.

It’s a patently disingenuous argument that stands no chance of success. But even that patently disingenuous message relies on establishing the optics of Obama refuses to sign our bill. Now the Republican plan relies instead on maintaining a Republican filibuster in the Senate, in perpetuity, to prevent a vote on a bill to open the government. They have maneuvered themselves into the least tenable position to defend a plan that never stood a chance of succeeding in the first place.


By: Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, September 20, 2013

September 21, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Party of Me, Me, Me”: The Republican Push To Defund Obamacare Is Just Selfish And Vindictive

Recently, Republicans have shown that their disdain for Obamacare is stronger than their level of caring about the American people, as evidenced by their wanting to shut down the government if there is not a one-year delay in implementating this legislation.

Seriously, tenacity is one thing, but acting like a bunch of spoiled brats at the taxpayer’s expense is not what Americans sent those politicians to Washington to do. Despite 40 votes to repeal, defund, etc., the GOP shows once again that it’s the main attraction at the circus, for they must know this is all for show. The Democratic ruled Senate is not going to vote in favor of such a proposal and, clearly, the  president would not sign the law if it made it to his desk.

And are we forgetting the majority of Americans who voted for the president both in his first and second runs for the White House? Doesn’t the population who wants, and for many needs, the Affordable Care Act count? I guess not.

Whether it’s egos, their careers or the inability to stand apart from their terribly fragmented party, Republicans still shows they are the party of no, the party of the rich and the party of the inability to play nice with Democrats to do what is in the best interest of all Americans.

Having said that, we here on the left have been asking: if you want to repeal and replace this piece of legislation, what are you replacing it with? Well today, that has been answered.

A group of House Republicans is going to unveil legislation providing an expanded tax break for consumers who purchase their own health coverage and increasing the government funding for high-risk pools. What the GOP has clearly forgotten is one of the reasons the Affordable Care Act was passed, was because it’s, well, …. affordable!

Has the GOP seen the rates being put forth by the big insurance companies? My husband, my two children and I pay nearly $2,000 a month for our PPO plan; and we are all healthy, thankfully.

The proposal, which was endorsed by the Republican Study Committee, provides a tax credit to people who buy coverage that is approved for sale in their state. The GOP says the American people could claim a deduction of $7,500 against both their income and payroll taxes, regardless of the cost of insurance.

But there are several big problems here. 1) Who decides what is “approved” for sale and based on what criteria? 2) You are giving the states the power of dispensing insurance, but the states can’t afford to. 3) What happens to federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and the numerous states that hold their hand out for their check from Uncle Sam, including some GOP-led states such as New Jersey and Florida? 4) Millions of Americans who should pay their taxes do not. Now you want more people to pay less? And you constantly talk about our deficit and how our government can’t pay its bills? 5) This program is not fair. If one person has a very low-rate plan and is healthy, they can deduct as much as someone paying triple who might not be. And lastly, 6) If Obamacare is difficult to implement and there was much criticism on the delay of this plan, how would the complexity of this proposal be any less?

The RSC claims a membership of 175 members, about three-quarters of the House Republicans. I wonder, have all 175 Republicans read what’s in it?

Let’s face it. This party is angry. They’re angry a black guy won. They’re angry the black guy got his team to draft and pass health care reform, badly needed in this country. So they want their version, their turn to “win”; that is what this is about. This is not in the best interest of the health of America’s people, nor the health of our economy. If we turn the tables on the GOP, will their plan be a “job destroyer,” as they have suggested Obamacare will be? What’s the start date of their plan? Will there be any glitches?

The bottom line is, Obamacare has been passed. To hold the country financially hostage and threaten to shut it down if the GOP doesn’t get its way and its version of a piece of legislation that is already law is not good leadership; it’s selfish. Is that what America needs in Washington today? I don’t think so.


By: Leslie Marshall, U. S. News and World Report, September 20, 2013

September 21, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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