Let Us Reason Together
October 1, 2013
Let Us Reason Together
October 1, 2013
This shutdown should not have happened.
The framers of our Constitution designed our system to have tension and differences between the two houses of the Congress. That’s a given.
But after the House and Senate have exercised their best judgment, they are then supposed to then sit down and negotiate out their disagreements. This is the way our bicameral system has worked for 225 years. It is the only way that it CAN work.
That hasn’t happened this time. This time, the House proposed a compromise – nearly two weeks ago – to keep the government open and to defund Obamacare in order to address the epidemic of dropped health care policies, massive rate increases, and job cut-backs that we are now seeing as a result of its implementation.
The Senate rejected that compromise by insisting on full funding with no reform. That is their prerogative and represents the best judgment of that body.
At that point, the differences were supposed to be negotiated. They weren’t. The Senate’s leaders refused even to discuss a compromise.
So the House offered a second compromise: fund the entire government, including Obamacare, but at least delay its implementation for a year to address the rapidly growing complaints we are all receiving. Instead of taking up the measure, the Senate instead chose to take the weekend off; come in at the leisurely hour of 2:00 in the afternoon – on the day of the fiscal deadline -- and then summarily rejected the House offer, again refusing even to discuss a compromise.
With the clock running out, the House offered a third compromise: fund the entire government, fund Obamacare, including the malfunctioning exchanges, but at least delay the mandate for individuals to obtain coverage for a year while these problems are addressed, and rescind the illegal action of the President that shields members of Congress from the costs of this law. It’s a simple principle: equality under law.
Since the President exempted big business from the mandate to provide healthcare for employees, it’s only fair that those employees should also be relieved from the mandate to purchase it. And if members of Congress can’t afford the new costs of Obamacare, how do we expect the average American to do so?
But once again, the Senate summarily rejected the third compromise by the House and once again, refused even to discuss our differences.
And the clock ran out. And the government is now in a partial shutdown.
Ironically, House Republicans have been accused of a “my way or the highway” approach. Yet the record is quite the opposite: House Republicans compromised and compromised and compromised, only to be met with absolute intransigence at the door of the Senate.
The House has now asked for a formal conference committee. This is the mechanism that has evolved over centuries to resolve even the most intractable differences between the two houses. Once again, Senate leaders summarily rejected the offer – this time even before it was made.
The only explanation for this conduct is that Senate leaders believe that a government shutdown inures to their political benefit because they can blame Republicans. If Mr. Reid and his followers didn’t want a shutdown, they would have been feverishly working through the weekend to avoid one – as the House was doing. The fact is, they didn’t, and that speaks volumes.
Our system of governance was not designed to operate in this manner. It CANNOT operate in this manner. The essence of a bicameral legislature is for each house to act according to its best judgment and then to isolate the differences and work them out. This is THE critical link in our deliberative process and it is not happening – not because of any failure of design, but rather because of designing men.
In his 1862 message to this Congress, Abraham Lincoln set the only course open to us. He said, “We can succeed only by concert. It is not ‘Can any of us imagine better?’ but, ‘can we all do better?’ The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise – with the occasion…We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
Mr. Speaker, I appeal to the Senate to set aside its dogmas, rise with the occasion, and accept the invitation of the House to sit down in conference. Then let us reason together. And then let us save our country.