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Editorial: This is Boehner’s shutdown

Last modified: 10/2/2013 12:45:18 AM
It’s difficult to hold your breath and stamp your feet at the same time, so the government shutdown by House Republicans probably won’t last all that long. That doesn’t mean it isn’t causing real harm to millions of Americans, among them some 800,000 furloughed federal workers. The shutdown is making the United States, in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s words, look like a banana republic, which is bad for the economy. And it’s done the seemingly impossible. It has made Americans even more disgusted with Congress and worried about the nation’s ability to govern itself than they were last week.

But if you really want to lose sleep, consider this: If anything were to happen to President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner would become president.

This is Boehner’s government shutdown. The lachrymose speaker who cries when he sees a little kid recite the Pledge of Allegiance is shedding no tears for the kids who won’t get fed because their Head Start program was closed. The House controls the budget, and the speaker controls the agenda. Boehner could have allowed a Senate budget bill stripped of attacks on Obamacare to come to a vote. It would have passed, and this latest crisis manufactured by Republicans would have been averted. Had he done so, however, Tea Party-type House members would have had a hissy fit that might ultimately cost Boehner his speakership.

Most speakers would have done the right thing and put the welfare of the nation ahead of their desire to hang onto their title. Not Boehner, who has allowed House extremists to stage 43 pointless votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, votes that also did something noteworthy: They made Congress even more dysfunctional, which may actually be what the most conservative House members want to accomplish because it slows government.

This shutdown is only a preliminary bout. The main match will come in a few weeks when Congress holds another vote to raise the debt ceiling and allow the nation to borrow the money it needs to pay its debts. Once again, what happens will be up to Boehner, who can cave to Tea Party threats or allow a House vote on a clean bill to raise the debt limit. If he doesn’t, and once again puts the nation’s economy and credit rating in jeopardy, House Democrats should work with the House Republicans who want government to work and elect a speaker who puts the nation’s interest first.

Republicans are holding government hostage to their demand that Obamacare be delayed – so they can kill it later – not because it’s a bad law. Its roots lie in ideas proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, ideas that were the basis of Massachusetts health care reforms enacted by their party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. They are desperate because they’re afraid that the more the law’s provisions are put in place, the more the public will like them, in the same way they learned to like Social Security and Medicare.

The law is not perfect, and even when it’s fully implemented, millions of Americans will lack coverage. But every American, even those who don’t need to shop for insurance on the exchange or won’t get a subsidy if they do, is already benefiting from the act. Insurers can no longer cancel your coverage when you need it most, when you’re truly and expensively ill. They can no longer place an annual limit on what they’ll pay for, and they can’t refuse to insure you if you have a pre-existing condition. That’s only for starters.

House Republicans have turned out the lights because they don’t like the new couch, but the public will only put up with the dark so long.


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