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“As Usual, The Public Be Damned”: House Republicans Should Come To Their Senses And Just Knock It Off

The health care obsessives in the Senate, led by Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, have spent days trying to portray Democrats as out of touch with the public. “The Senate Democrats are not listening to the millions of Americans who are being hurt by Obamacare,” Mr. Cruz said this morning in his last stand in this particular round of the budget battle.

Moments later, however, the vote took place and Mr. Cruz lost badly. It was clear that all Democrats and a majority of Senate Republicans had in fact listened quite closely to the public — which demanded that Congress not shut down the government, whatever the fate of President Obama’s health law.

On the crucial vote to cut off debate over a temporary spending bill to keep the government open, 79 senators, including 25 Republicans, opposed Mr. Cruz’s plea for a filibuster. (All of those Republicans also opposed the final bill, which removed the provision defunding the health law and sent the stopgap bill back to the House, but by then Democrats only needed a simple majority for passage.)

The Republican split in the Senate — 25 against shutdown tactics, 19 in favor — was a pretty clear signal to the House about the political limits of opposition to the health law. Mainstream Republicans will continue to oppose the law, exaggerating every minor glitch and failure, and running against it in next year’s election, but most are not willing to shut down the government to stop it.

They know what will happen if a shutdown occurs at midnight on Tuesday, or even worse, if a default occurs two or three weeks later: television news clips of phones going unanswered at Social Security offices, shuttered national parks, and veterans protesting reduced services. And a plunge in the market in event of a default. What was a political standoff would turn into a picture of dysfunction. Voters would get angry, and Republicans would inevitably (and accurately) get the blame.

The question now is whether a majority of House Republicans will feel the same way as their colleagues in the upper chamber. Answering only to rigidly gerrymandered districts, House members have shown themselves far less interested in the general welfare than senators, and may not react to the same pressures.

The bill now heads back to the House, and if Republicans attach another health care demand to it, that’s it, game over, the government shuts down on Tuesday. The Senate will have to strip it out again, and there won’t be enough time for reconciliation. Speaker John Boehner could agree to a one- or two-week extension, if he can get the votes for a kick-the-can bill, or he could punt, approve the Senate bill, and make his stand on the debt limit increase in the following few days.

But he’ll eventually have to punt on that, too, or risk triggering an economic catastrophe. The only realistic path is a sensible variant on what Mr. Cruz said this morning: Listen to the public and stop governing by crisis. Or as President Obama put it this afternoon: “Knock it off.”

By: David Firestone, The Opinion Pages, The New York Times, September 27, 2013

September 29, 2013 - Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , ,

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