For the first time in 17 years, the United States government is shut down. In the 11th hour, the United States Congress were unable to meet a resolution to fund the government and now we are faced with the reality that our politicians have failed us. It’s hard for me to not point blame for this absolute failure by our elected leaders, but in the end, both major political parties are to blame. Just as in tort law, which takes into account the negligence of the plaintiff and the defendant and chooses a judgment based upon a percentage of blame, I blame Republicans for the bulk of the situation we are in, but we can’t lay all of the blame on them. Democrats and the President are also guilty.
While I wholeheartedly believe in a clean bill to fund our government, sometimes we have to swallow our pride and negotiate. I don’t fault Republicans for trying to negotiate, but I do fault them for attempting to pass intangible demands. The U.S. House, which is controlled by the Republicans, and Speaker John Boehner made demands they knew would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate. Even if by some miraculous divine intervention these bills would have passed the House and Senate, President Obama would likely have veto such a bill before either House had dried the ink. An infamous way of figuring out whether you’re insane or not is when you try the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. You would think that after the U.S. House passed a resolution to defund the Affordable Care Act 42 times that they would get the picture that the result was going to be the same. Apparently not. Not only has the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to defund the ACA 42 times, but they have attempted to attach that vote to the funding of the government to avert a shutdown, attempted to delay the implementation of Obamacare by a year and attempted to limit the availability of contraception for women.
Now, the right-wingers are likely saying, “Woah, woah, woah! The President and the Senate said they’re unwilling to negotiate!” This is true, and where the Democrats fall short of being able to point full blame for this government shutdown on the Republicans in the House. As I said before, I believe in a clean bill that would fund the government without any additional amendments to it, but when Republicans stood strong on their convictions of adding amendments to a spending bill, the Senate and President should have been more open to negotiating. I understand they didn’t want to come to the table with Republicans because of their attempts at defunding the Affordable Care Act or delaying the ACA, but at some point you must put your pride aside and realize your stubbornness isn’t going to avert the government shutting down.
The moment Congress came back from summer recess both sides of the aisle should have created a committee that would negotiate a compromise on funding the government. In the Senate’s defense, the House refused to create such a committee until they were backed into a corner with the deadline looming and the GOP seeing plummeting approval ratings for Congress with polls showing they would get the brunt of the blame for this now in-effect government shutdown. With 15 minutes to spare, Senator Harry Reid announced there would be no compromises and no committees after Speaker Boehner announced they were willing to assemble a committee to negotiate a fair resolution to the crisis plaguing over 1,000,000 people right now.
Our elected officials are given the privilege of serving their constituents under the agreement that they will do something. The 113th Congress is on track to be the least productive legislative session in modern history. Washington has become so polarizing and so power-hungry that they’re unwilling to work together. I’ve said in some of my previous posts that ‘bipartisan’ is becoming a dirty word on the Hill.
As hundreds of thousands of federal employees woke up today, they were faced with the grim reality that they’re either furloughed without pay, or required to come to work unsure of when they might see their next paycheck for the foreseeable future. They struggle to know how they’ll make ends meet and put food on their families’ tables as Congress plays a childish game of chicken. If you’re worried about our Congresspeople getting their paychecks over the course of this shutdown, do not fret; they will be paid on time. Federal prison guards and some of our military personnel will continue to perform their job descriptions likely living paycheck to paycheck, while our representatives and senators continue to receive their $174,000 yearly salary and Obama gets a slice of his $400,000 a year salary.
This is the first government shutdown to happen since the last democrat was in office, working with Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Republican-controlled House. You should expect to start hearing the soundbites that democratic presidents are inept at averting a shutdown, while democrats point out that the Republicans are unable to control Washington without a shutdown over the course of the next three years. I don’t think this is a Republican problem or a Democrat problem, but it is a Republican and Democrat problem.
Have you ever seen Undercover Boss on CBS? It’s the show where wealthy executives shadow average employees within their companies. The premise is to see how their policies affect the average individual, but by the end of the show, the executive realizes how difficult their minions’ jobs are and how many of their employees have a difficult time making ends meet. Congress is complacent. While they’re busy bickering about ideologies and pointing the blame at one another, they forget how the “little” man lives. I envision Congress as a horse wearing blinders. They can see each other, but they can’t see the wider picture of how their decisions, or in this case indecisions affect their constituents.
We put our Congresspeople in Washington to fight for us. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, they have fought for their own agendas at the cost of taxpayers. If I worked for an advertising firm and had to pitch a presentation to a group of my clients, but missed my deadline, I likely would be packing my desk and be unemployed. Most politicians know they can get away with such blatant disregard for what is good for this country because come election time, we’re unlikely to vote them out. It’s time we hold our politicians accountable. If they can’t get the job done, we can replace them with people who will, while at the same time reminding them they work for us, not their political party. Save your polarizing banter for a rainy day. Both parties are only alienating themselves from each other and halting the government to a standstill. If Republicans want to defund Obamacare, let there be a referendum on November 4, 2014 and November 8, 2016. Don’t hold everyone else hostage and refuse to compromise on a resolution that could free the hostages. It’s time for D.C. to stand up and do something, instead of having yelling matches and pointing fingers between the two chambers. If I was able to make a rule for Capitol Hill to follow, it would be: you can’t leave until the job you were elected to do and granted to you by the Constitution is done.
I will leave you with this quote that has been circulating around the Twitosphere by our second president of the United States, and one of our founding fathers:
“In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, 2 is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.” – John Adams