With just four days remaining to avert the government shutdown, it is certainly turning out to be a high wire act and a deal might be reached just in time to prevent the shutdown. But there is also a possibility that the looming Monday night deadline might pass without any agreement thus forcing the default. In the meantime, the country is facing a big uncertainty: will the government shutdown or it won’t? Recent CBS/New York Times poll confirms the even split among American people. And, the blame for this surely can be laid at the doorsteps of the Republican Party. Back in 2011, Republicans tried to do the same thing, harping on the really worn out playbook of reduction in spending and reduction in debt etc. The end result was Standard and Poor’s downgrading the credit rating of the USA. To be clear, this was not due to massive debt or spending but the total dysfunction of the government. And, the players who brought that about are the ones driving the current fake crisis.
This time they have added Obamacare to their playbook. The last time shutdown occurred was in 1995-1996. The effects were not felt severely as the economy was booming. But this time the situation is different. Economy is still very weak; large numbers of people are unemployed and are depending on the government assistance for survival. Many of the government agencies would also shut down thereby crippling day-to-day life. The effect of shutdown, thus, could be severe. What are the issues that are causing this so-called fake crisis? They simply are raising the current debt ceiling, in the form of Continuing Resolution, to keep government funded to meet all its obligations and the funding of Affordable Care Act, which Republicans “passionately” call as Obamacare. These two issues are not at all related. The House has already passed the funding bill to keep the government running but has stripped the funding of Obamacare and sent it to Senate for their vote. But Senate has already made it clear that that any House bill that de-funds the Obamacare is not going to pass. In addition, it will restore the funding to Obamacare that has been stripped out in the House bill. The President has also made it clear that he will veto any bill that defunds the Obamacare. Under such circumstances one can’t help but wonder why a few Republicans are indulging in brinkmanship which was best illustrated by the fake filibuster carried out by Ted Cruz (R), a Tea Party member from Texas.
To be clear, majority of the Republican caucus in the Senate were not interested in filibustering the bill but a handful of Senators elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave to which Ted Cruz belongs thought otherwise. The Senate leadership was not on board with Ted Cruz’s plan and wanted nothing to do with him. This was made clear by Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority leader. But make no mistake; it is not that McConnell and his colleagues are against the House bill. They would love to block anything that Democrats, especially President Obama, propose. In the end Republican leadership, after surveying the political scene, has figured that it would get egg on its face if shutdown occurs and hence their opposition to Sen. Cruz’s plan. So what was the point of Ted Cruz,’s talkathon? First, it seems he was just grandstanding, scoring political points with his extremist base called Tea Party, which is nothing but a freak wing of the Republican Party with members like Sarah Palin, whom Steve Schmidt, Senator John McCain’s 2008 campaign manager now regrets having pushed to the forefront on the national stage. Second, and this one is completely crazy, Ted was filibustering the House bill that had already stripped off funding for Obamacare and which was sent to Senate for their vote. By preventing it from coming up for vote, he was, in effect, restoring funding to Obamacare. Talk about idiocy. By filibustering the bill, he was also disrespecting his House colleagues who had passed the bill exactly as Ted Cruz wanted and whom he had harangued over the past few months for not having the spine to de-fund Obamacare. Third, based on first and second above-mentioned interpretations and the follow-up developments, the point of his idiotic exercise seemed to be complete fakery.
This was amply made clear on Wednesday, September 25, when he voted along with 99 other Senators to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30, shortly after he ended his talkathon. In effect, he voted against himself. In the first place he tried to prevent the bill from coming to vote and then turned around and voted for the same bill to proceed in the Senate. Isn’t that crazy? As Sen. John McCain has pointed out Tea Party members are “wacko birds”. Their shenanigans in the House and Senate prove it. But with this bamboozling act, they have soared to new heights. And, these are the people who are setting and driving the agenda of Republican Party, lampooning moderates, and running roughshod over seasoned old hands by calling them names like RINO – Republican in Name only. It is absolutely frightening. But why is there so much republican opposition to Obamacare? Why are Republicans so intransigent? One and only reason is that Republicans are afraid it will become hugely successful and hence their virulent opposition. A report released on Wednesday by Department of Health and Human Services, attests to facts of the benefits that will be afforded by the Obamacare. The report states that most Americans will be able to choose from multiple insurance carriers and pay lower coverage on the Obamacare Healthcare Insurance Marketplaces, though there will be variations from state to state. All other reasons put forward by the Republicans for defunding Obamacare are pure scare tactics. As Sen. Barbara Mikulski (DMaryland) put it eloquently on the senate floor on Wednesday- “Republicans are not only throwing sand in the gears of Obama administration, they are throwing concrete”. Which is so true