The Times West Virginian

Opinion

October 20, 2013

Congress must do better when it comes to best serving the nation

Something strange happened during the 16-day government shutdown. As the nation shuffled toward economic disaster and party politics prevented either side from compromise to get federal employees back to work and the country the ability to borrow to avert a disaster that would lengthen and deepen the recession we’re just now coming out of, alliances were forged and love was lost.

You might expect that out of the “epic” standoff between the Republicans, Democrats and a president who is in his second and final term.

But the changes to the relationships were anything but expected.

Democrats stood by the president, a member of their own party.

Republicans started to move quietly away from their party’s hardline tea party members.

It’s the first time in months that the Democrats have supported Barack Obama since expressing that he was not against cuts to some entitlement programs to avoid sequestration and the budget he presented had bold changes in the Medicare and Social Security programs. That’s a huge sticking point for the Democrats, who feel like you can’t take from the poor (federal entitlement programs) without taking from the rich (ending Bush-era tax breaks for the very wealthy).

But tension within the party diminished during the days leading up to and during the government shutdown. The members of Congress stood with the president, taking the hard-line stance against negotiating changes to health care legislation with the GOP in order to end the shutdown.

But while the Democrats were mending fences that were a little worse for the wear after a summer of Syria, drone strikes and government spying programs, the Grand Old Party seems to have inherited the intra-party tension.

In the aftermath of the shutdown, the 27 GOP senators and 87 GOP House members who voted to end are being attacked by the members of their own party. Why? Because the standoff ended without the GOP getting anything they wanted, especially the elimination, changes or delay of what they call “Obamacare.”

Within minutes of the votes cast to end the shutdown, TeaParty.net started tweeting, listing each of the GOP members who voted to end the shutdown and tagging it “Your 2014 #RINO (Republican In Name Only) Hit List.” Factions within the party are already endorsing primary candidates running against GOP incumbents.

When did all of this happen? Who was tweeting “thank God FBI employees don’t have to apply for food stamps anymore?” Who was celebrating the end of, albeit temporary, a looming financial crisis?

Congress has to do better. This all-out war is self-serving at best. At worst, it is party before constituents. It is party before the responsibility to serve the nation.

The worst thing about it that it’s far from over. Congress agreed only to postpone the battle, to live to fight another day. All of these issues will still be here when deadlines crop up again come January and February. And January means election season will be in full swing as the entire House and several Senate seats will be up. What is the likelihood that in the next two months, members will have a complete change of heart, roll up their sleeves and collectively get to work to fix the things wrong with this country?

We’ll see.

But one thing’s for sure. In a year, Congress will have to answer to the ones who employ them, the voting citizens of the United States. They may find that their single-digit approval rating may shut them down.

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