The Times West Virginian

September 29, 2013

U.S. people sure to lose during political grandstanding

Times West Virginian

— Is the final outcome of a political grandstand already sealed?

House Republicans have prepared for “a very brief” shutdown of the federal government. In fact, they are defensive about it.

“The federal government has shut down 17 times before, sometimes when the Democrats were in control, sometimes with divided government,” said U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. “What are we doing on our side of the aisle? We’re fighting for the American people.”

Some of those American people include the Department of Defense employees classified as civilians. Others are those who work for the National Park Service. In fact, about 500,000 American people will immediately be furloughed. On top of that, there will be a ripple effect for American people going about their day-to-day business. Passport and visa applications will be delayed. Gun-permit approvals will be delayed. U.S. bankruptcy and other federal court cases will be continued. Families waiting on approval for mortgage applications will have to wait even longer.

Congressional and White House staffers will even go home.

But a little good news. The House is poised to pass a measure that will keep military personnel paid during a government shutdown. Of course, that good news is tempered by the knowledge that the House anticipates a shutdown to the point of preparing for it.

The Senate has gone home for the weekend. The House is poised to pass another measure that will ensure the government keeps going past the 11:59 p.m. Monday deadline, but again, the measure includes language for a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the tax on medical devices that would help pay for it.

“The American people don’t want a government shutdown, and they don’t want ‘Obamacare,’” House Republican leaders said in a joint statement. “We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown.”

And so the stalemate begins. And nobody wins, especially those American people Congresswoman Foxx is talking about.

Why? Because the Senate leadership has said that it will not accept changing the health care law as a condition to keep the government open.

That’s what happens when you take a hard line. You’re all in, win or lose. You can’t back down from it. The House won’t even negotiate a temporary spending bill unless delaying the health care law is part of the package. And the Senate won’t allow the House to kill or remove the teeth from landmark legislation that’s supposed to fully take effect next year.

And the president?

“Republicans in the House have been more concerned with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget that creates new jobs or strengthens the middle class,” Barack Obama said during his weekly address to the nation.

“And in the next couple days, these Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open, or create a crisis that will hurt people for the sole purpose of advancing their ideological agenda. The American people have worked too hard to recover from crisis to see extremists in their Congress cause another one.”

This is a bad situation that has been caused solely by party politics. But it’s all just prelude to an even more disastrous stalemate just a few weeks down the road. On Oct. 17, the U.S. will run out of money to pay its bills and will need to borrow in excess of the debt-limit ceiling already imposed by Congress. Congress has to raise that ceiling or the U.S. economy could suffer even more than it would under a government shutdown. Interest rates on everything from credit cards to student loans to mortgages could increase. And the U.S. creditworthiness will plummet on the global scale.

Is it too much to ask at this point that party politics be put aside since it appears as if Congress has already prepared to “go to the mattresses” and fight this fight despite the consequences? Both side proclaim they are fighting it for the American people.

But it’s the American people who are going to lose no matter who wins.