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“When All Else Fails, Just Lie”: Bogus Republican Arguments To Justify A Government Shutdown

The House conservatives who refused to keep the government open without kneecapping ObamaCare seem to believe, now that the government has shut down, they can win the public opinion fight and force Democrats to back down.

But to make the case that their actions and demands were reasonable, Republicans need arguments that are remotely plausible. Instead, they are heading into battle with claims that I would call paper-thin, were that not a grave insult to paper. Here are the five legs on which the Republican position can’t stand.

1. Obama won’t negotiate
Speaker Boehner embraced this argument in a web video with the tag line, “Why is the Obama administration willing to negotiate with Putin on Syria… but not with Congress to address Washington’s spending problem?” That’s a disingenuous reading of the situation. Washington is at an impasse because Republicans have repeatedly snubbed Obama’s offer for a budget compromise that pairs a stingier Social Security cost-of-living formula with corporate tax increases. Republicans refused to negotiate over taxes. They have continually demanded that Democrats scrap President Obama’s biggest legislative achievement in exchange for simply keeping the government operating. Of course Obama won’t negotiate over that. Otherwise, Obama has proved quite willing to negotiate on all aspects of the budget. It’s Republicans who have refused to offer any concession of any sort.

2. Republicans have already compromised
Sen. Ted Cruz tried this one during his Sunday Meet The Press appearance: “My position in this fight was we should defund [ObamaCare], which is different from repeal. And even now what the House of Representatives has done is a step removed from defunding. It’s delaying it. Now that’s the essence of a compromise.” No, the essence of compromise is when each party gives up something. Republicans aren’t proposing to give up anything. They’re just demanding a little bit less than before. Meanwhile, Democrats aren’t asking for any trophies. Keeping the government open and raising the debt limit aren’t ideological prizes, but basic housekeeping.

3. Republicans are just demanding what the people want
Republicans are nominally correct in saying that polling shows a lack of majority support for ObamaCare. But you don’t have to look much deeper in the data to see that doesn’t translate into majority support for threatening government shutdown to defund or delay ObamaCare. Multiple polls show widespread opposition to the Republican strategy linking the funding of government operations to stopping ObamaCare. Sixty-three percent of the electorate says Congress should “provide the funding to keep the government operating and deal with the health care issue separately.” Sixty percent say avoiding a shutdown is more important than “cutting the funds” to implement ObamaCare. Four in five people say threatening shutdown is “not an acceptable way to negotiate.” Even if you take the threat of shutdown out of the question, the Republican position still polls poorly. Only 38 percent support the view that “funding for the 2010 health care law must be cut off as part of any budget agreement,” with 50 percent opposed. Furthermore, the notion of widespread opposition to ObamaCare on conservative grounds is also misplaced. As CNN’s polling has long showed, while support for ObamaCare is below 50 percent, about 10 to 15 percent of that opposition says the program is “not liberal enough.” Support for the Republican view that ObamaCare is “too liberal” is only in the mid-to-upper 30s.

4. Harry Reid is the one who shut down the government
On Meet the Press, Sen. Cruz claimed: “[Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s] position is 100 percent of ObamaCare must be funded in all instances, and, other than that, he’s going to shut the government down.” To translate, Sen. Reid’s position is programs that Congress has already established by law should be properly funded. Reid is not the one who brought these issues together. House Republicans are the ones who made the decision to repeatedly link the suffocation of ObamaCare to legislation that would keep the government open; that was the threat, a threat on which Republicans have now followed through.

5. Since Obama is delaying ObamaCare for his friends, he should for everyone else
Also on this Sunday’s Meet The Press, GOP Rep. Raul Labrador tried to make the case for a one-year delay of the entire Affordable Care Act program because there have been delays regarding certain provisions: “The president has already delayed it for big businesses. They have delayed it for all his friends … all we’re asking for in the House of Representatives is for a one-year delay. Just like the unions are asking for a one-year delay.” That doesn’t make any sense. If Obama’s objective was to go easy on his friends and save them from a bureaucratic disaster, don’t you think the unions that supported his re-election would be getting help before the big businesses that didn’t?

The real story is that the delay for the mandate on employers with 50 or more workers was to give extra time to resolve a specific issue that arose: a concern that the paperwork was going to be unnecessarily burdensome on the vast majority of businesses that already provide insurance. So a delay was issued to provide the time to resolve that specific matter. Soon after, certain unions tried to use the employer mandate delay, not to get a similar temporary delay, but to permanently change a rule that denies ObamaCare subsidies to a particular kind of employer-based insurance utilized by union members. Obama told his union friends, no, there’s no legal basis for giving you those subsidies. The president is not doling out special favors. Nor does he consider the need for a few delays to resolve discrete issues to be cause for junking the entire law. In turn, these unions accepted the president’s answer and continue to support ObamaCare. They did not throw a temper tantrum and call for a general strike that would grind the entire economy to a halt.

Perhaps Republicans can take a lesson from that.


By: Bill Scher, The Week, October 1, 2013

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Public Opinion, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Double Pox Caucus”: With Their Extortion Policy, The GOP Owns This Government Shutdown

There will be, among my media colleagues, an instinct to blame the current government shutdown on both sides. A pox on both their houses is popular because it’s easy – everyone’s to blame for gridlock, so we’re not blaming anyone! – and attracts fewer charges of media bias. The double pox caucus likes to strike a post-partisan pose because it gives them a sense of superior enlightenment; they get the joke of the two party system, they think, in a way that grubby true believers don’t.

Don’t buy it. Both sides aren’t to blame. The GOP – specifically the fringe right that is currently calling the party’s shots – craved this shutdown and owns it.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when adjudicating blame for a government shutdown: Whichever side is using the threat or reality of a shutdown to effect changes to policy or law is responsible for the shutdown. This works for the forthcoming debt ceiling fight as well. When one side is making unilateral demands as the price of doing what they concede should be done anyway, they own the resulting crisis.

In this case the GOP is trying variations on a policy-changing theme: They wanted to defund Obamacare; when that didn’t work they tried to chip away at the law by, among other things, postponing the individual mandate for a year. They are, in other words, trying to win through extortion policy changes they couldn’t convince voters to ratify at the ballot box.

To paraphrase President Obama from last week, the equivalent would be if he vowed to veto any continuing resolution (thus shutting down the government) if it didn’t include universal background checks for gun purchases or a public option for Obamacare.

The fact of each party having a position doesn’t mean that each has equal validity. To suggest otherwise incentivizes extremism: If the “correct” answer is an even split, then the most extreme position wins by dragging the center as far in its direction as possible. (That’s the core of the House GOP’s effort to move the dispute over funding the government to a conference committee: enshrining the frame of two equal sides at the negotiating table.)

Here’s the thing: Obamacare has been litigated endlessly. It has been at the center of American politics since before it was passed. It played a central role in the 2012 presidential race, with GOP nominee Mitt Romney vowing to repeal it. The Supreme Court weighed in, finding the law constitutional. Then the American people weighed in, voting by a comfortable margin for the pro-Obamacare candidate over the repeal-Obamacare candidate.

Polls tell us a number of things about the American people (or Ted Cruz’s “the American people“) and Obamacare. We know that more Americans dislike the law than like it; we also know that a minority of Americans (but 100 percent of the people in Ted Cruz’s head!) favors repeal or defunding the law while a plurality or majority – depending upon the poll – favors making the law work.

And polls also show that people aren’t wild about the notion of a government shutdown hinging on the debate over the Affordable Care Act. A Quinnipiac survey released just this morning, for example, reiterated all of these trends: While voters split on the law (45 percent in favor, 47 percent opposing), a majority (58-34) oppose defunding it, and that opposition grows more pronounced when contemplating not raising the debt ceiling in order to defund the ACA (64-27 against) or shutting down the government in order to stop the law (72-22 against).

(Poll after poll also shows that Republicans are in line for most of the blame for shuttering the federal government; points to voters for paying attention.)

These figures – along with the aforementioned one poll that counts, from last November – paint a muddled picture of the American electorate’s wishes regarding Obamacare. But they also make one fact crystal clear: Republicans cannot fairly claim to speak for the electorate in foisting this government shutdown upon us.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, October 1, 2013

October 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Government By A La Carte”: House Republican’s Goal, Shut Down The Government With No Political Repercussions

Plan A was for the House to pass a spending measure that gutted the Affordable Care Act, which the Senate could then clean up and send on to the White House. Plan B was the House bill to go ahead and defund the health care law and dare the Senate to pass it. Plan C was the House bill to delay health care benefits for a year and dare the Senate again.

Plan D was a half-hearted House Republican effort to embrace budget talks that House Republicans spent six months avoiding. And Plan E is, well, kind of silly.

House Republican leaders Tuesday told rank-and-file members that they will attempt to pass several separate bills to reopen the government a few agencies at a time.

A GOP aide confirmed that leaders want next steps to include passage of a series of continuing resolutions that fund individual government programs — an idea floated by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Monday.

Why House Republicans don’t just make Cruz the Speaker and get it over with is unclear.

Regardless, this new plan is hilarious. Republicans could pass a center-right spending bill and end the shutdown, but what they’d prefer to do is break up the federal spending bill into chunks, and slowly turn the lights on piecemeal. Staffers were referring today to “mini-CRs.”

The idea, apparently, is to identify the parts of the Republicans’ shutdown that make the public upset, then pass a spending measure that resolves just that part of the crisis while leaving the rest of the government shut down. Americans are annoyed by closed federal parks? No sweat, Republicans say, they’ll pass a mini-CR that provides funding to reopen the parks — and nothing else.

And then when some other part of the shutdown creates public pressure, presumably Republicans would consider flipping the switch on that, too. The goal, apparently, is to shut down the government without feeling the political repercussions of a wildly unpopular government shutdown.


It didn’t take long for Democratic policymakers to dismiss the nonsense.

“We just decided in there we’re not going to do that,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said after leaving Tuesday’s Senate Democratic Conference meeting.

White House spokesman Jay Carney also ripped the idea as “not serious.”

“If they want to open the government, they should open the government,” Carney said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called it “just another whacky idea.” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) asked why opening federal parks is more important than “ensuring seniors, poor mothers, and children have access to meals and critical services?” A senior Senate Democratic aide said the House gimmick has “no chance” of success.

House Republicans can either keep their shutdown going, or they end this fiasco. The time for stunts, gimmicks, and partial pseudo solutions has long since passed.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 1, 2013

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nullifiers And Future Secessionists: The Tea Party’s Shutdown Is Their Mission Accomplished, But What Now?

Yes, the tea party Republicans should hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner across the House of Representatives. They could flank it with large portraits of Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who ousted John Boehner as speaker of the House in an unacknowledged coup. The right-wing extremists got exactly what they wanted. Now, what will the country do about it?

In blundering into a shutdown, Boehner has lost any claim to authority. Helpfully, the Speaker-in-Name-Only underscored this fact himself on the House floor when he mocked the way President Obama talked. Does anyone remember a real speaker going to the well of the House and making fun of a president of the United States? Can anyone now doubt who is responsible for Washington’s dysfunction? The Republican right still does not accept the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency. That is why the government shut down.

The issue here is not that Congress failed to reach a “compromise.” The Democrats already have compromised, lopping some $70 billion [this number has been updated from an earlier version] off their budget proposal, to the dismay of many liberals. That was meaningless to a tea party crowd that seems to care not a whit about the deficit, despite its fulsome talk. It will be satisfied only if Congress denies heath-care coverage to some 25 million Americans, which is what “repealing Obamacare” really means.

It needs to be said over and over as long as this stupid and artificial crisis brewed by the tea party continues: Financing the government in a normal way and avoiding a shutdown should not be seen as a “concession.” Making sure the government pays its debt is not a “concession.” It’s what we expect from a normal, well-functioning, constitutional system. It’s what we expect from responsible stewards of our great experiment. The extremists who have taken over the House do not believe in a normal, constitutional system. They believe only in power.

There’s a profound irony here, since no one talks more about the Constitution than the tea party. Before the Civil War, John C. Calhoun and a variety of nullifiers and future secessionists spoke incessantly about the Constitution, too. We know where that led.

In the normal course of things in a constitutional and democratic republic, parties win elections on the issues that matter to them. They pass laws or repeal them by majority vote. The tea party could not muster such a majority to repeal the Affordable Care Act because Democrats held the White House and the Senate in the 2012 elections. Lacking a majority, the extremists chose force. “Do what we want,” they said, “or we will render the country ungovernable.”

That’s what they have done. Everyone says Boehner knew better and did not want this outcome. But he was so fearful for his job that he let it happen.

My conservative colleague Michael Gerson had it exactly right this morning: “We are no longer seeing a revolt against the Republican leadership, or even against the Republican ‘establishment’; this revolt is against anyone who accepts the constraints of political reality.”

I would only add: This is also revolt against anyone who accepts majority rule and constitutional constraints.

The burden now is on Republicans who know how profoundly radical and, indeed, crazy the tea party has become. These genuine, non-radical conservatives know how irresponsible this shutdown is. They know that playing around with the debt ceiling later this month would be a profoundly un-patriotic act. “It’s a dead end,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said of the shutdown strategy. King, along with Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), had the courage to stand up against the lunacy by voting against Boehner’s last in a series of craven proposals Monday night. Dent told CNN that as many as 200 Republicans were secretly hoping that there would be a vote on the Senate’s continuing resolution so the government could stay open. But if those Republicans exist, they are paralyzed, unwilling to stand up to the far right.

There is only one way for this to end: Republicans who know better need to tell the far right, “Enough.” They need to overcome their abject fear of Republicans who are under Cruz-control and their cheerleaders in Rush Limbaugh’s world. They need to exit the boulevard of self-inflicted wounds.

We now know where the tea party’s political experiment ends. If this shutdown does not end the tea party’s reign of intimidation, we will face one unnecessary crisis after another as the extremists keep ripping up the roots of our great constitutional system.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 1, 2013

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Can’t Touch This”: Dear Republicans, Happy Obamacare Day!

To Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner and all the Republican hostage-takers who brought us the government shutdown, I offer a salutation: Happy Obamacare Day!

Smithsonian museums, national parks and the IRS may be closed, but the Obamacare health care exchanges are open for business starting today. The Affordable Care Act now begins to be implemented in earnest, mostly with funding in the “mandatory” category that last night’s insanity leaves untouched. Yes, the genius tacticians of the Tea Party, I mean the GOP, have managed to shut down everything except the program they were targeting.

To reach this point, the House majority made a travesty of the legislative process, throwing non-starter after non-starter against the wall in an absurd and vain attempt to get Obamacare defunded, delayed or defenestrated. Boehner looked miserable as he tried to lead his caucus of loose cannons.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) summed it up with twisted grammar: ”The situation has been somewhat lost control of.”

The “situation” — a fight, mind you, over a bill that would fund the government for just six measly weeks — didn’t lay a glove on Obamacare but did close the Statue of Liberty. Now Boehner wants a conference with the Senate to work out a compromise. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should say, “Fine — as long as you understand that we’re starting fresh and all bets are off.”

Reid should demand funding for the government at least through the end of the year — and agreement from Cruz to allow a conference on a proper budget, which GOP obstruction has made impossible. He should demand an increase in the debt ceiling that takes us past next year’s election — thus avoiding another hostage-taking showdown later this month when federal borrowing authority runs out. And, while he’s at it, he should demand pre-sequester funding levels for needed programs such as Head Start.

Republicans would scream bloody murder. But there would have to be actual negotiations, actual give and take. And ultimately, the GOP would have to decide how badly it wants to get out of the mess it created.

Such a move by Reid wouldn’t be a power play, it would be an intervention. Republicans need to be forced to realize that not everyone agrees with them and that they can’t always get their way. As things stand now, with their delusions of omnipotence, they can only be considered a danger to themselves and others.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 1, 2013

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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