US House to blame for this mess

As our nation — already struggling through a shutdown — careens toward default, the understandable temptation of Americans is to blame both parties. This is one of those rare cases, however, when only one party is at fault.
The temptation to lay the fiscal crisis at the feet of both parties is understandable because it’s consistent with our history. Gridlock did not begin with the 2010 elections. The dysfunction of Washington D.C. is very much a bipartisan affair.
The GOP-controlled U.S. House, however, owns this mess.
One House-created disaster is in progress. The government shutdown has continued since Oct. 1.
Government shutdowns are not inherently anyone’s fault. The Constitution provides Congress with control over the budget. It also created two chambers of Congress. This is not the first time in U.S. history that those chambers had very different views of what the budget should look like.
Americans might wish that the House and Senate could negotiate with maturity and with a recognition that a shutdown causes massive problems for their constituents, but the Constitution did not provide a tie-breaking mechanism.
This shutdown, however, has nothing to do with the budget. Senate Democrats have formally requested budget talks 19 times in the last six months. They have been rebuffed every time.
House Republicans placed only one restriction on a continuing resolution to fund the government: that the Affordable Care Act be stripped of funding. Congress passed the law almost four years ago. It was the focus of the 2012 presidential election, which President Barack Obama won by 5 million votes, and passed Supreme Court review. It raises some taxes, but it does not increase the deficit.
Tying government funding to the destruction of Obamacare makes no more sense than if the Senate tied passage of a continuing resolution to reauthorization of the Assault Weapons Ban.
As brutal as the shutdown is — especially in north Alabama with its dependence on federal dollars — the consequences of a failure to raise the debt ceiling would be far worse. If the Treasury can figure out a way to honor U.S. debts after Thursday, it will only be by gutting Social Security payments, halting federal retirement pay, mass furloughs, disruptions in Medicare and a host of other problems that make a shutdown seem minor. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would shake the world’s confidence in U.S. stability, would necessarily create a U.S. recession, and possibly would cause a global one.
Minority parties routinely gripe about increases in the debt limit. Majority parties — whether Democrat or Republican — always have understood that with power came responsibility.
The 14th Amendment is blunt: “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” Many have asked whether the president will invoke the amendment and bypass Congress.
The real question, though, is why the U.S. House does not feel bound either by the Constitution, by America’s hard-earned reputation as a nation that always pays its debts, or by the promises it has made to the people and to the world.

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1 Comment

Filed under Debt ceiling, Obamacare, Partisanship

One response to “US House to blame for this mess

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