Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
The American people are fed-up. The titanic hissy-fit of the Republican government shutdown has entered its third week. This has gone on long enough. We are now heading for an even more damaging crisis-a default on our debts. The politician-caused crisis is costing the country at least $160 million/day. The shutdown is estimated to cut US economic growth by 20%. Government workers are not being paid. Critical government functions, from national security and food inspection to medical research and providing for veterans are left undone.
We deserve better from our elected representative. At a very minimum, we expect them to keep the government functioning and to pay the debts that they incur. The House of Representatives is at the center of this crisis. What is our own Representative doing to stop the madness? What is Jim Sensenbrenner, the man who represents Germantown in Congress doing to re-open the Government? What is Representative Sensenbrenner, the man who claims to be fiscally responsible doing to avert a worldwide financial catastrophe?
Instead of acting as a voice of rationality, Sensenbrenner is as responsible for the current shutdown and debt ceiling fiasco as anyone in Congress. On August 21, Rep. Sensenbrenner sent a letter to House Speaker Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. In that note, Sensenbrenner, along with 79 of his politically extreme comrades, urged Boehner to use the renewal of the continuing resolution to extort a defunding of Obamacare.
In Rep. Sensenbrenner's letter to House Republican leadership, he “urged you to affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of Obamacare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill.” Knowing that the President and Democratic Senate would never go along with de-funding the Affordable Care Act, this course of action could only lead to an ultimate government shutdown.
Sensenbrenner has called the Affordable Care Act “the president’s abominable health care law”. Before the shutdown, he voted to defund the law an incredible 42 times. Leading to the shutdown, he voted in lockstep with his Republican/Tea Party caucus in attempts to defund, delay, and drastically change the law. They refused to vote for a clean continuing resolution to re-open the government. And the House Republicans have not even allowed a vote to pay our debts through a clean rise of the debt ceiling. Sensenbrenner has let his blind partisan hatred of the ACA and President Obama cause him to act counter to American interests.
Getting a handle on what the Republicans want in return for opening the government and paying America's debts is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. When it became clear that their plot to defund Obamacare would fail, they still kept the government closed and threatened default. Not wanting a good crisis go to waste, their extortion demands have been an ever-changing wish list, running from cutting Medicare to limiting actions the Treasury Secretary could take to avoid default. It has even been puzzling to party insiders. According to Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
Polls published at the end of last week were quite a shock to Congressional Republicans. According to Gallop, only 28% have a favorable impression of the Republican Party (vs 43% for Democrats). In an NBC/WSJ poll, 24% approve of Republicans (vs 39% for Democrats). An ABC poll found that 74% disapprove of the way the Republicans are handing the budget crisis.
The public rightfully blames Republican politicians for the shutdown, sinking the approval of Congressional Republicans to an all time low. The petty partisan actions of Sensenbrenner and his Republican/Tea Party pals are neither approved by, or in the interests of the American people.
House Speaker John Boehner refuses to even allow a House vote on either a clean continuing resolution or a clean debt limit. Unlike Senate leadership, he has not tried to work across the aisle to find a bipartisan solution to the impasse. His dysfunctional majority caucus cannot even bargain with itself. With the minutes ticking away until the US is officially in default, Bohner and his Caucus wasted precious time on Tuesday trying to get a plan that they could pass with only Republican majority votes. They failed.
We can only hope that Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid can pull together a bipartisan solution to the crisis and get it passed before time runs out. They are close. A lot depends on whether a Senator attempts to filibuster the agreement. A lot depends on whether John Boehner will actually bring a bipartisan Senate bill up for a vote in the House. With luck, the country will be rescued from Sensenbrenner's senseless shutdown and the fast-approaching Sensebrenner default will be averted.
Hopefully, politicians such as Jim Sensenbrenner who tried to hold our country hostage for partisan gain have learned their lesson. Hopefully, the age of governing America from crisis to crisis will be over. We will soon find out. According to the Senate agreement, the next continuing resolution must pass by January 15. The next debt ceiling increase is on February 7.