Why House Republicans Can’t Compromise [OPINION]
If it weren’t already causing so much unnecessary hardship, the government shutdown would be fun to watch. Nothing is more riveting to witness than the arrogant finally getting their comeuppance. It is an absolute shame that Republicans learning a lesson the hard way is coming at the expense of those who can least afford it, like child cancer patients who won’t receive their clinical trials, mothers on WIC, and federal employees in the lowest pay grades living paycheck to paycheck.
Apparently Republican power brokers, especially the leadership in the House, aren’t able to grasp the concept of a cautionary tale. “Be careful what you wish for” appears to have gone completely over their heads, because this is a crisis completely of their own making.
Republicans have gerrymandered and rabble roused their way into a corner and now nothing short of the political suicide of crashing the economy will appease their base voters and prevent House members from having to face a Tea Party approved primary challenger on their right.
It all goes back to 2010. President Obama had signed the Affordable Care Act and Republicans could have patted themselves on the back right there and called it a win. Note that this form of universal healthcare is not the “ooh scary” single payer, socialized system that just about every other advanced democracy uses. It didn’t even include a public option. It is the Heritage foundation approved, Romneycare model that keeps the profit motive alive and kicking while creating millions of new customers for big insurance companies.
Republicans had gotten the most watered down version of universal healthcare available, but that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted power, and to punish this President personally. The plan was to take back both houses of Congress, repeal everything that Obama had accomplished, and ensure that he only had one term, so that they wouldn’t have to override his veto to do so.
Republicans already had the advantage. Midterm elections are notoriously weak in terms of Democratic turnout. The economy was just barely off of life support. Main Street was still struggling and justifiably resented all the help that Wall Street had gotten. The President’s base was becoming disinterested in part because of things like his milquetoast healthcare plan that stripped the progressive luster off of Obama and revealed his gooey, centrist core.
They could have slept through the election and still would have taken control of the House and most of the governorships and state legislatures that they won, but they wanted more. They hitched their wagon to the unseemly racism of the birther movement and the low brow, reactionary fervor of the fledgling Tea Party.
They demonized Obama as a Kenyan, socialist, second coming of Hitler. They purposely misinformed the electorate about Obamacare, screaming about death panels and how this was the worst thing that could ever have happened to Mom, baseball and apple pie. 2010 wasn’t that long ago, and there is still plenty of audio and video available on the internet with Republican candidates promising to use a government shutdown to kill the ACA and generally get their way once elected.
It failed to land them control of the Senate, but the first order of business after the election was to use those newly acquired state legislatures to embark on a combination of gerrymandering and “election reform” bent on increasing the Republican domination of the House and winning the Senate the next time around.
A funny thing happened on the way to the 2012 election. The Supreme Court deemed Obamacare constitutional and reasonable people figured out what this Tea Party was all about. Not only was Obama comfortably reelected, but Democrats picked up seats in both the House and the Senate. The nation had spoken in regards to President Obama and his signature legislative accomplishment, but Republicans, especially the Tea Party lot, have chosen not to listen.
In a wonderful display of karma, Republican gerrymandering turned into their just deserts. Their ploy worked as well as it could, given the general unpalatablity of the GOP platform. Despite Democratic House candidates winning overall by more than a million and a half votes, Republicans held onto the majority. However, by doing all they could to minimize Democratic seats and make as many Republican seats as safe as possible, they not only wound up getting a larger number of true believer, Tea Party nuts elected, but ensured that the only competitive election they might have to face would come in the form of a primary from the right.
And so we have the current, manufactured crisis. The government shutdown lurches on, but the ACA is alive and well and generating multiple millions of hits at healthcare.gov and the state exchange sites. Who could have guessed that the uninsured might actually want a chance at getting subsidized health insurance?
As it becomes increasingly clear that there is no way out of this for House Republicans short of capitulating to Obama and Harry Reid, the GOP and their media machine have desperately dialed up the effort to try to paint this scenario as the opposite of what it really is. They might want you to think so, but House Republicans have made no effort to compromise in this entire ordeal, because in their circles, compromise is tantamount to defeat.
For only 6 weeks of the already unreasonably slashed, Sequester level funding, they demanded the repeal/defunding of Obamacare. The very idea that Democrats should give anything more than allowing the Sequester to roll on until a real budget can be implemented is simply preposterous.
When that was rejected, they demanded a one year delay of the individual mandate, knowing full well that doing so would also kill the program. Anyone who knows anything about this issue realizes that the only way to give affordable rates to the currently uninsured with preexisting conditions, i.e. those who would buy insurance today without a mandate if they could afford it, is to pool the cost by having younger, healthier people buy in as well. The whole thing is a ploy to make sure that there is no “affordable” care available and give Republicans a year to say “I told you so” in the run up to the 2014 elections.
It is as if a psycho holding your entire family at gunpoint tells you that he will let you and the rest of the family go if you let him kill one of your children. If you refuse and he later offers to not kill the child on the spot but instead use a poison that will kill more slowly, you probably wouldn’t accept that either. Republicans would have us believe that this amounts to compromise.
After the Democratically controlled Senate rejected that little nugget. Boehner and company decided to allow the federal government to shutter and go through the little dog and pony show of seating House members for a conference committee to reopen the government and deal with the ACA.
Boehner wants to talk things over, that is progress, right? Wrong. Did you notice how the Senate was able to table the House resolutions quickly and along a party line vote that didn’t require a 60 vote majority to override a filibuster? That is because the clean Continuing Resolution has already been passed by the Senate.
With the arcane rules of the Senate, agreeing to seat the conference committee would put everything back to square one, meaning that Harry Reid would need at least a week and be at the mercy of a Ted Cruz led filibuster to deal with whatever, if anything, came out of the conference. This is not an attempt at compromise, it is a ploy to pass a hot potato and hopefully have someone else wind up with the blame when no “compromise” is reached.
If House Republicans really wanted to compromise, they would pass the clean CR and seat members for a conference committee on the budget. Senate Democrats allowed Republicans to load the bill up with enough earmarks this time around, and for the first time in years a budget was able to get past the threat of filibuster.
For six months House and Senate Democrats have been asking to get back to the normal process of seating a conference committee to deal with the differences between the budgets, but Boehner refused to do so, specifically because the arch reactionaries in his caucus wanted to use the threat of government shutdown, and the upcoming debt ceiling to kill Obamacare. Boehner is not capable of keeping them in line, so he caved and gave them what they wanted.
Unless something changes quickly, and with so much of the media willing to buy into the GOP approved storyline of both parties being responsible for a broken Washington, it is unlikely that anything will change in time; we are blundering towards a debt default. People who have no idea how damaging that would be are going to demand that it happen, and Boehner does not have the spine to stop them because he doesn’t want to lose his job to Eric Cantor, who wouldn’t be any better at controlling them either.
Republicans cannot truly compromise now, because they know that Tea Partiers, both rank and file and those seated in the Congress, will see that as surrender to Obama. They have staked their jobs on this fight, one that they cannot win. Eventually they will have to give in to the man and the policy that they have spent so much time trying to paint as monsters. And then many of them will have to go back to their districts and try their luck against a Tea Party, primary challenger. It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving group of fellows, but it is shameful that so many others will have to pay for these guys’ follies.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Gossom and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.