our view

Our View: House GOP owns the reckless government shutdown

October 1, 2013 

They can spin it all they want, but House Republicans manufactured the crisis that shut down parts of the federal government Tuesday and threatens to wreak havoc on world finances if it continues for more than a couple of days. Unless they budge, they will go down in history as hostage takers willing to tank the economy if their demands are not met.

Republicans blame Democrats for not agreeing to their terms, but why should the Senate Democratic majority negotiate with hostage takers? Voters in the last election had an opportunity to reject Obamacare by electing Mitt Romney over Barack Obama. By a wide margin, they chose not to do so.

Repeatedly over the last several years, Republicans have attempted to repeal Obamacare. They lacked the votes to do so. Instead of accepting that outcome and seeking to change it through the ballot box, House Republicans have adopted extortion methods to land a victory they could not earn through this nation’s system of representative government.

Worse yet, they seem willing to inflict enormous harm on federal workers, services and the shaky economic recovery.

In our region, the most immediate impact of the shut down was the closure of Yosemite National Park. But if the shutdown drags on, it could delay Social Security payments, which would have a significant impact on thousands of people.

The bigger economic danger looms two weeks out. That is when the United States will reach its borrowing limit. If that cap is not increased, the nation will default on its outstanding debt, potentially sending the world economy into a tailspin.

And for what?

House Speaker John Boehner says Obamacare is a “train wreck.” But what’s really a wreck is the current system of health care, which prevents people with pre-existing conditions from getting health insurance. It’s a system in which a family’s entire life savings can be wiped out by a stroke or bout with cancer. It’s a system that fails in providing preventive care that would bring down staggering medical costs for diabetes, heart disease and other preventable diseases.

Obamacare is complex and is not perfect. But it offers the prospect of medical coverage for nearly everyone and a shift toward preventive services that will save us all in the long run. House Republicans, instead of offering ideas to improve Obamacare, would rather shut down the government than give the Affordable Care Act a chance to be implemented.

Boehner could have stood up to the tea party extremists, especially with support from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Instead, the three pandered to the most reckless and ill-informed members of their caucus, refusing to send the Senate a clean funding bill stripped of the condition that Obamacare be delayed. The federal representatives from our region are behaving predictably. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, sent out a statement claiming that the fault lies with Democratic senators for refusing to compromise on Obamacare. He’s following the party line.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, voted with the GOP’s House majority on a bill that would fund the federal government only if Obamacare is postponed a year. He has appeared willing to stand up to his party’s leadership on some issues, but not this one. In a statement issued on Sunday, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, who represents Merced County, warned that the shut down will “cost the tax payers $150 million each day and limit the American people’s access to services they expect and deserve.”

Americans also expect and deserve leaders who can negotiate and behave like reasonable adults. They don’t see such leaders in the House of Representatives today.

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