Conferring together with an unknown open mike, House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) revealed the more cynical side of the recent government shutdown. Discussing with Paul his visit to the White House, McConnell seemed to dismiss the President Barack Obama’s overtures, instead viewing the mess as a kind of football game, where one side would eventually win. Paul told McConnell he believed their side would prevail, getting the White House to delay the Affordable Care Act, known smugly as Obamacare. What’s lost in the free-for-all are the over 800,000 federal employees tossed out of their government jobs because Republicans refuse to agree on a budget unless Obama relents on Obamacare for at least one year. While signed into law April 21, 2010, the GOP waited until the last minute to hold back funding the Supreme Court-vetted legislation.
Republicans insist that Obama—not the GOP—is the stubborn one, refusing to negotiate in good faith on the fate of his long-awaited national health care legislation. Growing numbers of Tea Party Republicans twisted House Speaker John Boehner’s arm to put contingencies on funding Obamacare in the 2013-14 budget. To Democrats, holding back funding on Obamacare was equivalent of holding any entitlement program—like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—hostage. Boehner insists that Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refuse to fund various government programs, including National Parks, National Institutes of Health, Dept. of Veteran Affairs, etc. Obama told Boehner and House Republicans that holding back the budget to delay Obamacare was not an acceptable demand to warrant negotiation and compromise.
If the House GOP decided to hold back the budget or debt ceiling to gain major concessions on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, would anyone believe that the demand for negotiation was reasonable or justifiable? Picking on the Supreme Court vetted Affordable Care Act is equally unacceptable and off-limits to Democrats. “Consideration of appropriations bills in this fashion is no a serious or responsible way to run the United States Government,” said the Office of Management and Budget, referring piecemeal attempts to fund the government. “I firmly believe their position is untenable,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Vir.) wrote, urging his caucus to hold pat. No matter how much distress caused to federal workers, Cantor believes the White House will eventually cave in. Cantor makes no bones about his distaste for Obamacare without saying why.
Like other Tea Party-tilting politicians, it’s difficult to understand why the GOP would block funding the government to stop Obamacare. Whether or not they like the idea of another costly government entitlement, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law two-and-a-half years ago. Like this year’s “sequester” that practically trimmed $1 trillion off the government spending, the GOP complains about growing national debt and federal budget deficits. While they blame Obama, the GOP knows that the national debt expanded because the Great Recession of 2007-09, forcing the Federal Reserve Board to bailout various financial institutions and buy toxic debt through its “quantitative easing” bond buying program at $85 billion a month. Boehner and McConnell also know that federal budget deficits have been cut-in-two by Obama in the last three years, now standing at $607 billion for 2013.
Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act accomplished what the insurance industry was unwilling to do: End the distinction between individual and group insurance. Individuals under Obamacare no longer have to qualify and pay more for medical insurance, regardless of medical histories. Before Obamacare, individuals were either rated up to prohibitive prices or excluded from insurance altogether. Recognizing that the government already covers the elderly, disabled and poor, Obama wanted to cover uninsurable working adults, who, through no fault of their own, couldn’t get health insurance. Tea Party zealots like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Steven King (R-Iowa) oppose Obamacare because they truly believe the government should not be in the entitlement business. They’d seek an end to all government largesse if they could get their way.
Leaving an open mike gives a rare peak at the cynical view of working folks behind the scenes. Insisting on the shutdown, both parties show egregious insensitivity to government workers. “We are moving forward with our strategy,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), opposing the Tea Party’s government shutdown. “They are moving forward with their strategy,” said King, clarifying that he favors ending the shutdown. Whatever the pitfalls or merits of Obamacare, it’s outrageous to hold federal workers hostage to a vindictive political dispute. Now that the Tea Party’s made it s point, it’s up to Boehner to tell the renegade upstarts when its time to throw in the towel and restart the U.S. government. Hearing Cantor, McConnell and Paul talking about the GOP’s winning the game shows how ego eclipses all common sense and workers’ rights when it comes advancing political agendas.
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.