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The folly of a rigid ideology

Fri, Sep 20th, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

By Karen Reisner

Members of the Tea Party have become so inflexible and blinded by their own rigid ideology that they have become divorced from reality. They are putting the furtherance of their ideology ahead of the future of the Republican Party and the best interests of their country. They have developed this narrowly focused obsession to either delay or defund the implementation of Obamacare, which simply is unlikely to happen. Their efforts often interfere with the governing process and are destructive.

Members of the Tea Party threaten to deny further short term spending authority if a delay or defunding of Obamacare is not part of the continuing resolution (CR) which needs to be passed by October 1, the beginning of a new fiscal year. This would mean a government shut down of all non essential government services. Even more ominous would be a failure to raise the debt ceiling by the middle of October when the federal government is expected to not have the funds to pay its bills and fulfill its obligations. No group should hold the future of the country hostage with the threat of default.

Most all Republicans would like to delay or defund Obamacare. However, most recognize the methods the Tea Party members have suggested are very reckless. They understand that a resolution which includes the delay or defunding of Obamacare would not pass the Senate or be signed into law by the President.

House Speaker John Boehner (R) can save his party and protect the interests of his country by throwing out the “Hastert Rule” and working with the Democrats across the aisle. The Hastert Rule is a guideline introduced by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) which says a majority of the majority must back a bill before bringing it to the floor for a vote. This guideline which is not a law has the affect of diminishing the minority party in the House.

It is a fact that the Democratic Party holds a majority in the Senate and the Presidency. Then, couple that fact with the resistance of Tea Party members to vote with the Republican majority in the House and the use of the Hastert Rule. Taken all together these elements provide a recipe for even greater dysfunction in Washington.

The House is the people’s house. Our forefathers created the House to represent the people, not just the people that happen to vote for the party that holds the majority of members. Therefore, it is reasonable for the Speaker to lead and let all the members of the House have a voice which has been given to them by the citizens who elected them.

The Hastert Rule may have the effect of allowing a Speaker to hold on to his position longer, but at what cost to the country. Even for those that are unwavering in their belief that Obamacare is bad for business and for the American people, the risk of a government shutdown or even worse a default versus the reward of delaying or defunding Obamacare should be unacceptable.

The Farm Bill (Senate version) and the Immigration Bill approved by the Senate would likely both be passed if they were allowed to be brought up for a vote in the House. The use of the Hastert Rule has prevented a vote by the full House. Boehner is within his right as Speaker to not allow a vote, but is that really in the best interest of the country?

The magic number to get something passed in the House is 218. Republicans have a majority of 233, but about 40 of those members are loyal to the Tea Party and much less, if at all, to the Republican Party. This leaves Speaker Boehner without a workable majority concerning many issues. The Tea Party members are out to make a statement and to protest through obstruction, but are not out to get legislation passed. To reach that magic number of 218, Boehner will have to lead by appealing to Republicans as well as Democrats in order to get a bill passed that can also be approved by the Senate and signed by the President.

Boehner has to decide whether his priority is to retain his position as Speaker by sticking to the Hastert Rule or if he has the political courage to protect the country from the extreme efforts of the most conservative wing of his party by throwing out the Hastert Rule and forming a temporary alliance with Democrats to get the CR and the debt ceiling legislation through the House.

Tea Party members are trying to raise money to increase their numbers in the next election. They are looking out for their own interests, not the interests of the country or those of the Republican Party. Their methods may backfire. Shutting down the government or even worse a default, will damage the economy and be harmful to the American people. A default could lead to a credit downgrade, lost jobs, a weaker economy, and economic losses throughout the world; plus, damage the reputation of the United States in the eyes of the world for decades to come. The full faith and credit of the United States is on the line. The United States has never in its history defaulted and I don’t think we want to start those dominos falling.

President Obama has declared several times that he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling will need to be raised in order to allow the federal government to pay for obligations that have already been approved by Congress.

If spending is to be cut by restructuring entitlements, by streamlining military programs, or cuts in other discretionary spending, this is not the way to accomplish that. Efforts have continually failed to produce a long term restructuring of both spending programs and the tax code. The raising of the debt ceiling is in part necessary because of the inability of Congress to work together to solve these issues. There have been efforts to reform entitlements and eliminate corporate tax breaks which could help with the long term issues, but to no avail. Some issues have been decided by tinkering around the edges by increasing taxes on the wealthy and capping discretionary spending.

As a country we need to look at the road going forward and make it safer and smoother for the future. That is going to require a Congress and administration that can work on the more unpopular and more difficult decisions which include the restructuring of entitlements.

A good result and compromise for the CR would be to pass a clean resolution without the demand to delay or defund Obamacare and to keep spending levels essentially unchanged. Democrats want some tax increases or targeted spending cuts to replace sequestration, the across the board cuts. Republicans are not in the mood to even consider tax increases. Neither side would be pleased with a simple clean resolution with nearly the same spending levels, but this is often the case with compromise. Next, the debt ceiling is raised so the government can fulfill its obligations protecting the full faith and credit of the United States. To not raise the debt ceiling would be dangerous and irresponsible.

We have a democracy and divided government. There have always been rocky periods throughout our history. However, Congress and the President have managed to mostly work for the best interests of the country. Boehner has the tools to lead and keep us afloat through the coming storm. Let’s hope he has the political courage and ability to use them.


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10:31:19, Sep 27th 2013

terese says:
Obama's father wrote a paper while attending Harvard. In this paper he stated that the best way to destroy a country is to raise the debt while raising taxes. With that in mind, why has Ms. Reisner taken a LOT of words to say nothing. In one paragraph alone she states that shutting down the government would, "shut down all non-essential government services" DUH? They are non-essential. That means they are not necessary. She further states that , "more ominous (I am so scared)...federal government is expected...have funds to pay its bills and fulfill its obligations." We CANNOT do that NOW! We have to keep borrowing and making more money to keep the government afloat now. I love her conclusion, "the debt ceiling is raised so the government can fulfill its obligations protecting the full faith and credit of the United States." Does she know the USA has had it credit rating dropped??? Does she know that our obligations cannot be fulfilled now with the military being reduced?? Remember when Minnesota's government shut down? The people that still worked had to do more work to take up the slack. Very little changed. Let the gov't shut down and then you will find out how large a number of the "non-essential" there is.


6:53:41, Oct 4th 2013

Louie says:
Thank you, Karen, for the thoughtful and accurate assessment of the outrageous behavior of a minority of irresponsible, reckless US representatives (like John Kline) who are throwing a tantrum to get there way. The consequences are potentially catastrophic!

Terese doesn't seem to understand the difference between essential and necessary. She also doesn't understand that the US credit rating dropped because of the Tea Party threat to not pay the bills that the congress already approved. It's like you decide to buy something and then decide not to pay for it. They approved the spending, so they have to approve paying for it.

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