Shutting down the government Oct. 1, the Congress—both Democrats and Republicans—violated the most sacred U.S. documents and principles, namely, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Both parties should be taken to task in the federal courts for robbing 800,000 federal workers of their “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” It’s abundantly clear in the Declaration of Independence, a Fifth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that no government can prevent a citizen from “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, “ without due process. Eight-hundred-thousand federal workers were disenfranchised by a dysfunctional Congress, unable to resolve political differences. As President Barack Obama has pointed out, neither party can litigate the results of a past election by blocking funding to the national government without appropriate due process.
While elected officials squabble in Congress, 800,000 federal workers go without paychecks through no fault of their own. No employer—whether public or private—can rob employees of their livelihood without appropriate redress in the courts. “This Republican shutdown did not have to happen,” said Obama in the Rose Garden. Calling GOP actions an “ideological crusade” against his Affordable Care Act, Obama fails to see that both sides must take legal responsibility for robbing federal workers of their paychecks. No matter who’s at fault, the fact that the government arbitrarily and capriciously sacrificed the employment of federal workers without due process violates the U.S. Constitution as much as anything in recent memory. Obama should put 62-year-old Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder on notice that the White House intends to file for injunctive relief in federal court.
Debating about who’s at fault won’t bear any fruit for the 800,000 displaced federal workers, placed on indefinite furlough until the political parties can hash out a deal. Neither Obama nor House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shows any signs of budging off their recalcitrant positions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) rejected calls by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Vir.) for a conference committee to settle differences. “They’ve shut don the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans,” said Obama, litigating past battles but unable to bridge the differences. GOP leaders may not have a leg to stand on logically but the House rules currently permit a determined minority to throw a monkey wrench into the government’s operation. Until that can be fixed, the courts are the last resort to get results.
When former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Reid and Obama imposed the Affordable Care Act on Congress in 2009, it had no backing from the Republican Party. While there are many reasons to oppose Obamacare, the GOP’s Tea Party wing objects to any attempt to expand the size, scope and influence of the federal establishment. Their opposition to Obamacare runs deep. It involves a fundamental difference with the White House over the role of government. Tea Party devotees object to Obamacare because they don’t want the government in the entitlement business, including Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Current GOP objections are powered largely by first-term Tea Party Congressmen elected for one single-minded purpose: To repeal Obamacare. Despite improvements in the U.S. economy under Obama, they believe Obamacare will wreck the U.S. economy.
Whatever the arguments for or against Obamacare, disenfranchising 800,000 workers over a political dispute clearly violates workers’ Fifth and Fourteen Amendments rights to due process. No federal worker should be denied a paycheck because the political parties continue fighting over settled legislation. When 58-year-old Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts announced June 28, 2012 that Obamacare was Constitutional, the Tea Party convulsed. When they got over Roberts stabbed them in the back, they figured out a new way stop Obamacare: Block the U.S. budget and upcoming debt ceiling. White House and Senate Democrats object to the GOP’s strong-arm tactics that have shutdown the U.S. government. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, federal workers also have rights, including the most basic Constitutional right of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”
Obama should urgently instruct Holder to file for injunctive relief the U.S. District Court in D.C. Attorneys representing federal workers should argue their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated by Congress in their feeble attempt to resolve outstanding political disputes. If Congress shuts down the U.S. government, no elected official should receive paychecks while federal workers head to the unemployment lines. Watching the U.S. government grind to a halt should be a wake-up call that Washington’s divided government is broken. Once the dust settles and the spigots begin to flow, the White House, House and Senate must work on legislation to prevent another shutdown from happening again. No president, with the power to start wars, should be left without emergency powers to restore funding should the government lapse again into a breakdown.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.