There has been a small amount of entertainment value so far from the “partial government shutdown,” and I don’t just mean the fun I’ve had during the time away from the office. On top of watching my bosses devise legitimate projects we can all work on outside of our government-provided offices and away from our government-provided equipment so no one will miss a check or a part of one, and taking care of my own projects both at home and on the driving range, I’ve had time to consider the silliness that our members of Congress have been reduced to while simultaneously trying to end the “crisis” they created and make sure they won’t be blamed for it once it’s over.
Today, after a failed series of attempts to pass laws to fund small slivers of government operations which proponents argued “everyone was for,” the House passed a bill to guarantee that furloughed workers will get full back pay for the furlough period, whenever it finally ends. The Senate and the president have also expressed sympathy for the poor, innocent government workers who could be facing serious financial trouble if they start missing paychecks as a result of a standoff that they had no part in starting (or ending, apparently). But this approach raises an interesting point.
…even as Congress and the White House rallied around the bill, one outside group said it “demonstrates the stupidity of the shutdown.”
Making the shutdown less painful for 800,000 federal employees will encourage Congress and the White House to extend it even longer, driving up the cost, said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Ellis said “essential” federal workers who stayed on the job “will feel like suckers because they’ve been working while the others essentially are getting paid vacations.”
Whatever the negative effects of this partial government shutdown are, all of the victims are innocent ones. Those responsible for the shutdown weren’t aiming at World War II veterans and their memorial in Washington any more than they meant to harm children or poor people or the space program or home loans or anything else. Regrettably, they don’t care about any of that, because they are hysterically blind to everything but their true goal: the only target of the intransigence on the part of the extremist Republicans in the House is President Obama. They want to prevent him from implementing his plans, and they don’t care that he’s already won on the health care reform issue three times: in Congress when it was approved, by the people when he was re-elected, and at the Supreme Court when the law was ruled to be constitutional.
One important difference about this Washington pissing contest as compared to those of the past few years (remember “the fiscal cliff”?) is that Democrats are not taking the bait: so far they haven’t given in to any urge to negotiate with the terrorists, and they should be commended for that. As Dave Weigel reports in Slate, the Democrats have learned a few things lately about how to hold the line.
“Dealing with terrorists has taught us some things,” said Washington Rep. Jim McDermott after voting no on one of Thursday’s GOP bills. “You can’t deal with ’em. This mess was created by the Republicans for one purpose, and they lost. People in my district are calling in for Obamacare—affordable health care—in large numbers. These guys have lost, and they can’t figure out how to admit it.” Why would House Democrats give away what the Supreme Court and the 2012 electorate didn’t? “You can’t say, OK, you get half of Obamacare—this isn’t a Solomonic decision,” McDermott said. “So we sit here until they figure out they fuckin’ lost.”
UPDATE OCT. 6: But Pat, some may say, surely this whole partial government shutdown thingy isn’t as simple as just the conservatives still fighting with the president, there must be more to it than that. No, there isn’t: they’ve been planning a government shutdown aimed at Obamacare for months and months, and this morning The New York Times laid it all out, including quotes from the proud perpetrators:
To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.
The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.
On Capitol Hill, the advocates found willing partners in Tea Party conservatives, who have repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they do not get their way on spending issues. This time they said they were so alarmed by the health law that they were willing to risk a shutdown over it.
In the three years since Mr. Obama signed the health measure, Tea Party-inspired groups have mobilized, aided by a financing network that continues to grow, both in its complexity and the sheer amount of money that flows through it.
A review of tax records, campaign finance reports and corporate filings shows that hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and spent since 2012 by organizations, many of them loosely connected, leading opposition to the measure.
The story is full of details about the groups and people behind the effort, and the enormous sums of money they’re spending to stick it to the president. Check it out for yourself.