Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
These are the times that try men’s patience
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON –Is this is the new political landscape where a minority of lawmakers can hold the majority hostage to reverse laws they don’t like? If so, any law will be vulnerable to blackmail. But we cannot fool ourselves. This is not the fault of Congress. It is the fault of the Founding Fathers.
House Republicans are demanding that the administration gut or delay the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare, or else they will not fund the government, and they are doing this because the rules allow them to do it.
The hatred of Obamacare that motivates Republicans is over the top considering the law passed both houses of Congress, was signed into law, upheld by the Supreme Court, and ratified by the results of the 2012 presidential election. In a Rose Garden appearance on Tuesday, Obama called the ongoing effort to dismantle the law an “ideological crusade,” pointing out that while the shutdown affected much of the government, the health care exchanges were up and running.
Millions of people seeking health coverage went online in the first hours and days, causing some sites to crash and reflecting the pent-up need that the Affordable Care Act seeks to address. It was always a fool’s errand for Republicans to believe they could get Obama to chip away at his own law in exchange for what used to be routine business for Congress, which is passing a budget and raising the debt ceiling so government can pay its bills. Defaulting on the debt would be truly catastrophic, and for Republicans to even flirt with it is why Obama has to draw the line not only for his presidency, but for future presidents.
Governor Rick Perry, R-Tex., whose state has 25 percent of its population without health care coverage, opined that there are two sides to every story, and that Obama is at fault for refusing to sit down and talk with Republicans. Talk about what, the president might ask. On Wednesday evening, he had all four congressional leaders at the White House to tell them face to face that he will not negotiate anything until House Republicans stop demanding concessions on Obamacare as a condition for opening the government and paying the government’s bills.
All it would take to end the stalemate is for House Speaker Boehner, R-Ohio, to allow lawmakers to vote on legislation the Senate has already passed to fund the government at the current level through December. Both sides can then resume the fight over spending and the budget, but without causing unnecessary damage to existing government agencies and programs.
Boehner so far refuses to bring that legislation, which in Congress-speak is called “a clean CR,” or Continuing Resolution. He’s refusing to do it because he can under House rules, and because he fears doing it would trigger a revolt in Republican ranks that could cost him his speakership.
The Constitution, Article 1, Section 5, states that each chamber of Congress makes its own rules, which opens the door to the curious behavior in the greatest democracy on earth where a bill proposed in Congress is not assured of getting a vote. Who would have thought that letting lawmakers vote could be such a hurdle, but that is what’s at issue in the current standoff. If Boehner would bring that clean CR to a vote on the floor of the House, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says it would receive virtually unanimous support from Democrats, and it would take only a small number of Republicans to reach the magic 218 votes for passage.
Boehner can open the government in an instant if he chose to let democracy work. There is nothing to stop him, not even the much touted “Hastert rule.” Its author, former Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., calls the principle that a majority of the majority must support legislation or it should not be brought to the floor “a non-entity” and “a misnomer,” handing Boehner a lifeline if only he had the courage to take it.
“Congress, Cliffs & Common Sense: These Are the Times That Try Men’s Patience” by Douglas Cohn explains the history and the problem and offers a solution. The book is available for $7.99 at Amazon.com for Kindles or you may request details from firstname.lastname@example.org to have a Microsoft Word version sent directly to your email.
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND