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The Unapologetic Geek

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The Shutdown Blame Game

Harry Reid
Here is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, bravely admitting to the American people that he bears absolutely no responsibility for anything

I woke up this morning to a parade of furiously-typed tirades on my Facebook feed about who's at fault for a partial government shutdown. For the most part, it was a lot of my left-leaning friends talking about the House GOP, using a lot of loaded phrases like "taking hostage," "bombs strapped to their chest," and so on. The House, you see, attached provisions that would delay the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act to their budget proposals, and the noble, "new tone" Democrats refused to even discuss these terms, preferring to let the government shut down, which is obviously the Republicans' fault. The president himself was going on and on the other day about how the ACA is already the law of the land, passed by both houses of Congress and deemed constitutional by SCOTUS, which is why the House should just bend over and take it.

Call me crazy, but if this fight were about the Patriot Act, I doubt those Facebook friends of mine would feel the same way. And if this were about anything other than Obamacare, I'm pretty sure they'd be okay with legislation that was designed to give the same exemptions to individuals that have already been granted to businesses and Congress by the president. But let's forget all that, because this is about how we can best blame Republicans for all the craziness in Washington.

Ted Cruz
And here is Senator Ted Cruz, bravely reading Dr. Suess into the Congressional record because that's somehow relevant

And yes, the Republicans definitely shoulder some blame. When Ted Cruz talked for nearly twenty-four hours on the floor of the Senate in a not-filibuster against Obamacare when they were still on the quixotic hardline of wholly defunding the law, it was hard to see what the Republicans were hoping to accomplish. Best case, they were planning on caving and just wanted the American people to know that they tried as hard as they could before Obamacare got fully implemented. If they'd taken the softer line (of delaying the individual mandate, repealing the medical device tax, and carving out Congressional exemptions) much earlier, they might have been able to make headway. Alas, since they waited until practically the last minute to get reasonable, it's like they were begging for a shutdown, something they had to have known they'd be blamed for.

Still, I can't make sense of the arguments coming from the left this morning. It's already the law? So what? Since when has that ever stopped Congress from changing things? Since when is a law untouchable by Congress just because it was passed by Congress? How does that make even the slightest bit of sense? Was there a provision in the juggernaut bill that said that Congress would never be able to alter it in any way, and if so, is that legal? There is a provision about the start date of the employer mandate--it's still in the law, as a matter of fact--but that's been delayed by the president, acting wholly alone. So the argument is that the president can change laws at his own whim, but Congress can't even bring it up for a vote without being compared to suicide bombers? Where's that looking glass and how can we go back through it?

House seal
These people should respect the voters, but only the ones who voted for the president

And then there's the old favorite that the president used way back during the summit that preceeded the law's passage: he won the presidency, therefore he should get his way. The law was passed by representatives voted on by the people, and the president got re-elected even though the law was a major sticking point of the election. Fair enough. But didn't the House GOP win their elections too? Didn't they promise their constituents to fight the law, and weren't they then voted into office with that mandate?

Next, there's the popular argument that the House GOP is being totally intransigent, "holding America hostage to their extreme ideology" and so forth, because as we all know, the Democrats have never attached their own wants to a crucial bill at the zero hour. I could accept this argument if the Senate and the president had been making concessions and urging for negotiations over the last month, but they've been doing the exact opposite. The same president that has been open to negotiating with Iran and Syria has publically stated on multiple occasions that he isn't even going to talk to the Republicans about the budget anymore, because he just doesn't like having these arguments. That's right, he won't budge because the other side is being stubborn in its refusal to give him exactly what he wants. Yeah, I can see how the Republicans are the intransigent ones here. I mean, it's not like they softened their stance from defunding the whole thing to just delaying the least popular parts of it.

Congressional Exemption
And the people totally voted for this exemption rule

The final argument is that the Republicans are only fighting Obamacare because they're afraid it might work. I can't even muster up any sarcasm about this one, because it's just stupid. That's like saying the Democrats during the Bush years were only fighting the Patriot Act because they were afraid America might be too safe as a result of it. Yes, of course, there's political considerations coming from the right--delaying the individual mandate would probably make the ACA more painful as enrollment of healthy people is one of the ways it purports to cut costs--but aren't there the same political considerations coming from the president who has granted exemptions to employers? I'm not going to beat around the bush here; the Democrats are always going on and on about how they are the only thing standing up for the little guy as corporate America and big money politics try to steamroll him, but in this case, they want individuals held to a harsher standard than companies, cronies, and Congress. The hypocrisy is staggering.

Yes, it's depressing that Congress can't get along, and yes, both sides share blame for it. But I don't want to hear how the Republicans in the House are intransigent ideologues throwing a temper tantrum, as the Democrats refuse to negotiate unless they get their way. Both sides are being intransigent and both sides are filled with ideologues, and you know who's to blame for that? Us. We voted for gridlock, and that's what we got. This is democracy in action, ladies and gentlemen, so perhaps we'd be better off if we voted for people who are actually willing to make compromises and--perish the thought--do what's right for the American people instead of their own political agenda.

-e. magill 10/1/2013

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