The federal budget brawl

Moderated by Rick Badie
Today, we address the U.S. government shutdown, the nation’s first in 17 years. Who’s to blame? And was it “completely preventable,” as President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to federal government employees? Our guest writers share their perspectives on the budget brawl between Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats: Set pride aside

By Lynn Westmoreland

The two major political parties in this country have different opinions on how best to govern, often leading to disagreements. In the past, disagreements were resolved through communication. Unfortunately, both President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to negotiate and communicate with House Republicans to stop the government shutdown.

In an interview earlier this week, the president told NPR that he “shouldn’t have to offer anything” when it comes to the budget or debt ceiling debates. Sen. Reid told reporters he is “not going to negotiate.” There are reports he has urged the president to not meet with House Republicans at all.

I have said time and again that House Republicans don’t want a government shutdown. This is evident by the number of bills we have passed to try to stop the government from doing it. The House has passed four full appropriations bills and three separate continuing resolutions. They would have responsibly funded the government while protecting the American people from the harmful impact of the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats have rejected all of our attempts, not just by voting them down but by refusing to even debate and vote on two of the three.

The House sent the Senate legislation that would allow the two chambers to hold a conference to negotiate. Traditionally, when the chambers in Congress create different pieces of legislation, a “conference,”  of  both chambers is formed so the two sides can hammer out differences. Once again, Sen. Reid refused to debate the bill.

Twice this week, House Republicans tried to ease the pain of the shutdown by passing several, small, short-term bills that would reopen national parks and memorials, end the delay of veteran benefits and give the District of Columbia the authority to use its own revenue to continue daily operations. The bills would also provide funding for cancer research and pay military personnel in the National Guard and Reserve.

In all, the House has passed four appropriations bills, four pieces of legislation that could have averted this shutdown over the last two weeks, and five additional pieces of funding legislation that would help ease the shutdown. The Senate has only voted on one.

Because Senate Democrats and the president are refusing to communicate with House Republicans except through the media, it’s unclear what will happen next. However, I want to reassure everyone the House is still hard at work. We will continue to pass small continuing resolutions to try to open up as many portions of the government as we can. But our hands are tied unless Senate Democrats are willing to set aside pride and come to the negotiating table.

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, a Republican, represents Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District.

House Republicans don’t get it

By Hank Johnson

House Republicans control just one-half of one of the three branches of government, but they seek to impose their will on the majority.

Love it or hate it, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. It was passed by Congress, signed into law by President Barack Obama, declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and ratified by a majority of Americans when they re-elected the president for a second term.

The tea party wing of the Republican House caucus is holding America hostage in a selfish and reckless attempt to undo what has been lawfully done. Shutting down the government unless Congress kills Obamacare would destroy the extension of health care to 50 million uninsured or underinsured Americans. This attempt to kill this hard-won victory is undemocratic and destructive to the nation’s economic recovery.

A resolution funding the government sits in the House awaiting a vote. If Republican leadership would allow a simple “yes” or “no” vote on the “clean” continuing resolution already passed by the Senate, it would pass, and the government could reopen.

Even though they’ve already voted 45 times to defund or delay the health care law, this group of House Republicans is so obsessed with sabotaging the ACA that they’re willing to take the nation’s economy hostage.

While the shutdown is bad enough, we now face the prospect extremists will repeat this plot with the upcoming vote on raising the debt ceiling, which could cause the U.S. to default and cause a global economic crisis.

The consequences of the shutdown are already being felt: 800,000 government employees out of work, more than a million working without pay, offices that provide important services shuttered, and hungry children who depend on nutritional programs cut off from assistance. Some in Congress think it’s a good thing to shut down the government to exact ideological demands — costing the nation $150 million a day and about $1 billion a week.

Why? So we can put insurance companies back in charge? So we can prevent 50 million Americans from getting affordable insurance? So insurance companies can discriminate against women and people with pre-existing conditions?

Since going live at midnight Oct. 1, healthcare.gov has been visited more than 3 million times. Enrollment for 2014 has officially begun.

To all of this, my Republican colleagues say, “No.” They do so at the nation’s peril.

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 72 percent of Americans are opposed to Congress shutting down the federal government to block implementation of the ACA. Nearly 60 percent of Americans reject cutting off funding to stop the law.

The obsession of the tea party with destroying health care reform and wounding the president has led Republicans astray.

A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll shows a plurality of Americans say that causing political problems for President Obama is now the GOP’s top priority in Washington.

The American people understand. Why don’t House Republicans get it?

Hank Johnson, a Democrat, represents Georgia’s 4th Congressional District.


51 comments Add your comment

Change

October 3rd, 2013
2:50 pm

So getting back to civil society where people pay their own way, don’t steal from others through the mechanism of government, contribute voluntarily to help others, etc. isn’t allowed if it upsets some and I am ok with that? Again, what kind of utopia are YOU proposing? You somehow expect the victims of theft to smile and say “thank you sir, may I have another.” Not going to happen buddy. I am certainly not going to continue appeasing my attacker. I don’t know what kind of morality you believe in, but I am not going to enable any more violence against me, no matter who it upsets. If that let you down and you were hoping for Utopia, maybe you need to read Mao or Marx or something more consistent with your typical posting. I am advocating a peaceful approach to human interactions. Yes, that will upset many people. No apologies.

Bernie

October 3rd, 2013
2:10 pm

correction:

Change @1:49 pm – The definition of change is do something different! your initial comment throws US back to the very TRAP we are currently in “Why do we need to not infuriate others?”

You have WASTED My time as well as the many readers. I am done! what you are advocating is MORE of what we have. WHEN you REALLY have MEANINGFUL CHANGE IN MIND…get back with US!

Right NOW you are only JERKING US around…..I thought you were serious!

My BAD!

Bernie

October 3rd, 2013
2:09 pm

Change @1:49 pm – The definition of change is do something different! your initial comment throws US back to the very TRAP we are currently in “Why do we need to not infuriate others?”

You have My time as well as the many readers. I am done! what you are advocating is MORE of what we have. WHEN you REALLY have MEANINGFUL CHANGE IN MIND…get back with US!

Right NOW you are only JERKING US around…..I thought you were serious!

My BAD!

Change

October 3rd, 2013
1:49 pm

Why do we need to not infuriate others? Some of us are being stolen from and our natural rights are being violated on a daily basis and others are the recipients of that theft and are doing the rights violating. Why should I care if my plan upsets the immoral ones?

There of course is a solution that would respect the rights of everyone. A voluntarist society. I know what makes me happy. You know what makes you happy. I know what my property is. You know what your property is. If I wish to have some of your property, I have 3 choices that respect natural law. I can purchase it from you by meeting an agreed upon exchange amount. You can simply give it to be voluntarily as a gift, or you can will it to me upon your death (an extension of #2). You have the same options for any of my stuff (or services). Anything else is a violation of natural law.

Plenty of people (sadly, far too many), think otherwise at this point. The feel that if they want some of my stuff, all they need to do is vote for people they can appeal to to come and take my stuff from me (or force me to contribute my services, etc.). If they are a business, they might not want to take such a bold approach so they might have the government get rid of their competitors through regulations, licensing requirements, permit fees, zoning regulations or the like (what is known as “rent seeking”) so that I have little to no other choice but to purchase from them (give them my money).

In such a voluntarist society, everyone’s wishes are fulfilled, they are just not fulfilled though the force and guns of government. They are fulfilled through voluntary interactions. Some will not have their wishes fulfilled, but the morality of society will be maintained.

I am not sure what Utopian paradise of which you speak in which we can find a “happy medium for ALL.” Socialists, Communists, Progressives and similar have been speaking of such a thing for an awful long time and hundreds of millions of people have lost their lives opposing those who have promoted such ideals. Is the Democratic Party offering up such a society? Are the Republicans?

I know that the Libertarian and Constitution parties and libertarians (small L type) are promoting a society far closer to my thoughts in which everyone’s rights are respected but charity, cooperation, voluntarism, respect for the law and natural rights, etc. are paramount to proper functioning of society.

In the end, I really don’t care about the feelings of those who have been the “takers” for all these years. That does not matter if they are individuals or the massive defense contractors, big Agribusiness corporations, bigPharma, banking cartel members or whatnot. They know which side of the moral equation they have been on. Our interactions have not been voluntary and thus they have been violating MY rights (whether directly or through their agents in government). To the extent that I have benefited from government services, etc. (one cannot choose otherwise when there is a government monopoly on the service – or one is forced to use the service) I apologize to everyone who was financially harmed on my behalf. I had not other choice and freely will give up this “taking” in favor of paying directly to a private company that provides an alternate.

If everyone would realize the harm that has been done to our country through our immoral approach to society, we could change this overnight. The means to move from here to there is present in our technology and motivation, but people need to change their hearts and their minds.

It is not sufficient to simply say “but here is where we are, what are we going to do about this” and never work towards an ultimate solution. What we have is unsustainable and will NOT end well. No empire in history nor any fiat currency has survived forever and their ends were horrible for everyone involved.

Dg

October 3rd, 2013
1:27 pm

Most people don’t realize, Obama is ultimately responsible for this economy, shutdown, and all the corruption amongst the elite politicians whom are except from Obama Care. Boehner just wants the American people to have a choice, like congress does; instead of a mandate forced upon us. Obama Care was voted down at least twice by the American people but unfortunately behind closed doors shady deals took place that allowed this misuse of power. Forcing people to buy your product that ya have a monopoly on is extreme blatant arrogant ignorance of the constitution.

Bernie

October 3rd, 2013
12:26 pm

Jack ® @ 12:22 pm – Your view as usual, mirror those of one of our most famous despots of the World, Adolph Hitler.

“All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.” – Adolf Hitler

Jack ®

October 3rd, 2013
12:22 pm

Well said, Change. But what you are suggesting ain’t gonna happen. Too many, way too many Americans have been feted with systematic and destructive dependence on the “system”. The guns of government are once again pointed at responsible citizens saying we must support those that are considered not able to support themselves; there’s the rub. Again, way too many have voluntarily placed themselves in that category simply because they can and knowing full well they’ll receive righteous support and sympathy from true believers in egalitarianism. I vote Republican instead of Democratic because I truly believe the Democrats want to give away the entire store while Republicans do not.

Sky_Blue2013

October 3rd, 2013
12:08 pm

Yes, it was preventable. Boehner had the opportunity to allow a clean vote and he has failed to do so, because he clearly wants to keep his job as Speaker of the House. I think most americans would support a vote on a clean bill. Why do the Republicans want to keep a clean bill off the floor? Clearly they know it would pass, which would eliminate their chance to continue to “Shutdown” the government.

What the Republicans fail to realize when they say they represent the people, is that they do not represent all of the people and the majority of us voted in the last election to re-elect President Obama.

Allow the “clean” vote and let’s move forward.

Bernie

October 3rd, 2013
11:55 am

Very Good Points and some things to seriously think about and consider. However, None of this addresses our most pressing needs presently. This proposed change must provide Who,What and issues to b presented for support. Presently America is far too divided along Racial,economic,Social and Class lines to find a happy medium for ALL. Your comment describes and explains the need and we ALL get that part. But How do we get there from here is the MILLION DOLLAR Question?

The Current Actions of The Tea Party is not an acceptable example of an IDEAL option. Mob like intimidation which has been a core strategy of theirs has proven to be a unworkable and unacceptable option for consideration. How do you propose to appeal to the needs and desires of a wider population without infuriating others? Answer that one and I will be the first to support a NOBEL PRIZE for you or anyone. :)

Change

October 3rd, 2013
10:56 am

Sadly the two major parties DO NOT have different views on how to govern this country – and therein lies the problem Both believe that it is appropriate to steal a large portion of your income and distribute it to others. Both believe that it is appropriate for the federal government to be involved in activities far beyond what is clearly defined in Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution. Both believe in a massive overseas foreign empire that costs hundreds of billions of dollars a year to support. Both believe that the federal government should be micromanaging education, both believe that the federal government should be backing up loans so as to alleviate banks from responsibility, both support the Federal Reserve, which enables their massive deficit spending, destroys the value of the dollar and the purchasing power of savers (the backbone of a strong economy), and has been the cause of every financial crisis since it was created in 1913. Both support the failed war on drugs which has filled our prisons with millions of non-violent persons, destroyed families, created a massive black market filled with violence, high profits for criminals, and the corruption of the justice system at every level. Both support massive welfare programs for business – although each party hands out the welfare only to certain “favorites” while opposing the ones the other party hands out. I could go on for hours and hours.

The bottom line is that both major parties have absolutely NO respect for either the constitutional limits on government power or the hard working taxpayers that are being stolen from to pay for it. We are told at each election not how great each candidate is or how much they will stand up for freedom and liberty and the restoration of American political values, but instead how much worse the other guy is and how horrible it would be if a voter were to vote for a so-called third party’s candidate (as this might cause the other guy to win). We were told to be terrified of Al Gore and yet Bush got us into two unnecessary wars, one based on lies, and with the support of GOP representatives and senators, increased the national debt by trillions. At the same time, the police state, the NSA spying programs, the destruction of the 4th amendment protections and so much more got so much worse. We were told that McCain would be horrible and that Romney would be horrible and yet here we are with even higher national debts, a healthcare takeover that is destroying the system and jobs across America and the supposedly “civil liberties” and “anti-war” democrats won’t even oppose massive NSA violations of law or the numerous wars Obama continues to wage/start.

Really, there is a difference between the two major parties? Really?

We don’t have the Libertarians to blame for any of this mess. Certainly not the Constitutionalists, or the Greens, or the Peace and Freedom folks, or the American Independents, or any of the dozens of parties that have been trying against all odds to even get past the massive hurdles the two major parties have put up in their way to getting on the ballot.

If this shutdown has taught anyone anything, I hope that it is that the so-called two-party system in this country is a complete failure. That it is clearly designed to prevent competition, push both to the lowest common denominator, and create an environment in which principled stands are no longer tolerated.

This nation no longer wants to remain “united.” I am sick of being the victim of legislation passed on behalf of special interests (be they fellow citizens or their businesses). I would imaging that most people are to this point.

When the country was founded, the Constitution specifically said that there would be one member of the House for every 20.000 persons (yes, I know the whole 3/5 thing). Without any amendment to this document that number slowly grew. Finally, an Act was passed (not an amendment, just a congressional bill) during the same progressive era that gave us the Income Tax, the Federal Reserve, and the direct election of Senators, that fixed the number at 435. Now each house member “represents” over 750,000 people (and some over a million). That is not representation. Why do we continue to pretend that these folks in any way represent US, or that such a large country based on this kind of system is even still workable?

Fundamental change needs to come from this and it begins by withdrawing your support (for that is the foundation of every political system). It must begin with a mental change that recognizes that government cannot solve the very problems it has caused and that neither the republicans nor the democrats are on anyone’s side but their own. It will take a leap of faith in yourself and your neighbors, but ultimately if you do not have faith in them on a personal level, why do you allow them to have the power over you that comes with the guns and force of government? And wouldn’t it be safer for all involved if government itself had far less power over you and your life?