The Shutdown of the United States government is over at last, but the absurdity on Capitol Hill continues. Even as the employees, patrons, and citizens who rely on the government go back to work, our elected members of Congress are preparing to launch themselves into yet another battle over the budget, the debt ceiling, the Affordable Care Act, or whatever else happens to be on the agenda today. They fight over things that should have been over and done with months ago.
The debt ceiling has been in American political minds for long enough for politicians to have seen this coming far in advance. Yet is only now being addressed (with great success, I might add). The budget issue has been looming large for decades, generations even, and it should not have come down to voting on it days before it’s due.
But the real kicker is the Affordable Care Act, the piece of legislation termed “Obamacare” by the GOP, which many in the Party have dedicated all of their efforts in recent months to defeating. They cry that it’s unethical, undemocratic, unconstitutional, un-American. But how is it any of these things? Unethical? It’s designed to help those who cannot afford their own care and protect them from being blindsided if something does happen to them. Un-American? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Now, the fun ones: unconstitutional and undemocratic. In this country, we have a very well laid-out and defined way of creating new laws; somebody submits a bill to create a new law, the Senate and House of Representatives review it and make changes until they both agree on a formula, the bill is sent to the president for approval, the president approves or denies it, if he denies it then more edits are made until all parties are satisfied, and when presidential approval is gained the bill is written into law (whew). Now take a look at the Affordable Care Act that has the Tea Party so stirred up. The Act was originally put forward by President Obama some four years ago as one of his campaign promises, was kicked around Congress for a while until everybody managed to agree on at least part of it, and was then brought to the president and signed. But the fun didn’t stop there! Hardcore Republicans challenged the law in the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, by putting forth some claim that the law was actually a tax of some sort and therefore unconstitutional, which the Court eventually threw out and upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. WHICH MEANS… let me catch my breath here… that the Affordable Care Act is not only democratic AND constitutional, but it is not possible for it to be more so in these here United States of America.
However, this fact didn’t seem to sink into the heads of the members of the GOP on Capitol Hill late in September as they tried first to derail the Act entirely and then tried to get it delayed by a year. The Democrats were uninterested in playing ball with a group of man-children, so the Republicans did the only logical thing they could do under the circumstances. They ragequit. They declared that they wouldn’t budge an inch and that they would refuse to approve a budget in time, triggering a shutdown. After sitting around and watching their approval ratings do an excellent brick-falling-off-a-plane impression for a couple weeks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell finally managed to work up the courage to tell his party that enough was enough and, with help from some of the less insane members of his party, reached out to the Democrats in an attempt to reach an accord. They managed to achieve a deal (temporarily) and the government resumed something resembling functioning on October 18th. What was achieved? Nothing. The only thing that the mass failure of the American democratic system did was drive Republican approval ratings into the ground and then some. The budget was simply put off for a few more months. The debt ceiling war will resume in February. And what of the Affordable Care Act, the very thing that sparked this battle? It went ahead as scheduled, but the system was full of bugs and was overloaded multiple times in the first few days of operation. And why haven’t most people heard about this? Because they weren’t watching the healthcare system’s opening days, they were watching a group of “adults” (and I use that term lightly) squabbling over a law that was passed over a year ago, and why? How should I know? We’ve yet to be given an actual, legitimate reason why they see this law in particular as such a bad thing. But anyway, what the shutdown did achieve was distract the public from the rather poor start to the Affordable Care Act’s tenure. That’s right, the GOP’s war on health care did more to help it than anything else. Good job, guys! Glad we have such a cadre of geniuses on Capitol Hill.
But wait, there’s more! The delay of the budget and debt ceiling debates means that we haven’t seen the last of this issue. I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised if we at least see an attempt to do this again come January or February. So don’t get used to having functioning government again. There’s no knowing how long it’ll last this time.
By: Andy Griscom