Congress, Not Iran, Threatens The United States With A Post-Apocalyptic Landscape

Published 2:55 pm Thursday, October 3, 2013

What part of “government shutdown” don’t members of the House of Representatives and United States Senate understand? If the government is shut down, they should not receive a paycheck. If the government is partially shut down, they should receive a partial paycheck. But, no, they go out of their way to intentionally shut the government down, in all or part, and still receive full pay. That’s Washington, D.C. in a nutshell and one only wishes there were a dozen very large squirrels somewhere along the Mall hungry for the nut inside that shell. Some 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed. National parks are closing, as are federal offices and museums. Air-traffic controllers, prison guards and Border Patrol agents are being required to continue working their important jobs, but without being paid. Congress, on the other hand—the party guilty of shutting the government down—will continue receiving a full paycheck and associated perks. National parks may close but the national perks for Congress will remain wide open. The House of Representatives has its fingerprints all over the first shutdown in 17 years, trying to delay Obamacare for one year and refusing to vote, straight up and down, on a Senate interim spending bill. The House ties everything to Obamacare. Republican House members, like our own Fifth District congressman Robert Hurt, blame Senate members. “We, in the House, have been working for the past two weeks to offer proposals to fund the government. We’ve now passed three proposals, and the Senate refuses to compromise. Each proposal we have passed embraces reasonable and responsible spending reform and extends to Virginia families the same reprieve from the harmful effects of the healthcare law that the President has extended to favored special interests here in Washington.” Our Democratic U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, blame the Republican-controlled House, and that surprises everyone as much as the GOP finger-pointing does. “It is disappointing that the House majority is prepared to shut down the federal government in its continuing ideological opposition to the Affordable Care Act,” Senate Warner said. “This is not a responsible way to conduct our nation’s business. It threatens the economic recovery. It is also not fair to target the federal workforce to bear the brunt of this dysfunction. The Senate has now sent a clean interim spending measure to the House twice—a measure which already reflects compromise between the Senate and the House spending plans. The House leadership should allow members to cast an up-or-down vote.” The House has tied a huge Obamacare-attacking knot in its proposals, however, and Republicans seem determined not to divorce themselves from their endless Captain Ahab-like opposition to legislation the 2012 Presidential election was fought as and thought of as a battle-deciding referendum on the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare is their Moby-Dick and they are consumed with exacting political revenge. “We must take every opportunity here in Washington to embrace reasonable spending reform and to protect Virginia families from the harmful economic consequences of the President’s healthcare law,” Rep. Hurt stated, later adding, “The Senate has blocked each and every one of our good faith proposals, refusing to even compromise or negotiate.” The shutdown, however, has done nothing to keep the Affordable Care Act from taking effect and a cynic might wonder if the state of play in the House is really an internal GOP scrum—moderates vs. Tea Partiers—and about Speaker Boehner holding on to his position as House Speaker and leader of the pack. Allowing a simple up-and-down vote on the Senate measure would answer that question. Ironically, President Obama may currently have a better relationship with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani than he does with GOP members of the House of Representatives and Mr. Boehner. The two presidents spoke by phone last week about resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran and President Obama said afterwards that he believes the two countries can reach a “comprehensive solution” regarding the Iranian nuclear program. “I do believe there is a basis for resolution,” President Obama said. There is no indication, at this moment, of any such optimism for a resolution to the government shutdown. Obviously, the nation survived the shutdown 17 years ago and we will survive this one, but surviving and prospering are two different paths toward dissimilar destinations. The post-apocalyptic landscape of the endgame today looks bleak. The shutdown, itself, is far less lamentable than the dysfunctional partisanship that produced it, and far less damaging to the nation than the continued long-term Cold War between Democrats and Republicans, between the House and the Senate and between Congress and the White House. The fall-out this nation should fear most comes from the nuclear strike-launching partisanship in our own nation’s capital, not the capital of Iran or any other nation on Earth. And for this we pay them, even as our government shuts down. The only good that can come from this debacle is a nationwide realization that continuing down this ultra-partisan path threatens us with a self-inflicted wound that, if left unattended, can become a form of national suicide. Captain Ahab’s obsessive pursuit of Moby-Dick sunk his whaling ship, Pequod, and left every member of his crew dead but one. The lone survivor, Ishmael, was found floating on a casket that had become his life-preserver. Don’t call us Ishmael. Every member of congress should drop their nuclear harpoons and, together, sail this ship of state into port. —JKW—

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