October 9, 2013
This October crisis is punctuated by three developments that are becoming increasingly obvious and disturbing.
The first is the refusal of the Senate and the President to resolve their differences with the House through negotiation and compromise on the one bill that would fund this government and end this shutdown.
In recent days, senior administration officials have said they don’t care how long the shut-down lasts because they’re winning politically, and that the President would rather the nation default than negotiate with the House.
Our form of government cannot operate in such a manner. Congress is a bicameral legislature – two houses specifically designed to have different perspectives on issues. The two houses of Congress are engineered to disagree.
The only way a bicameral legislature can function is because once both houses exercise their best judgment on a given issue, they THEN meet to isolate their differences and to resolve them through negotiation and compromise.
The conference process of Congress has evolved over centuries and is very effective at resolving the differences between the two houses – but it takes two houses to operate it and the Senate is refusing to do so. This malfunction is at the heart of our stalemate.
The second development is the deliberate decision by the Administration to amplify the public’s suffering and inconvenience during this stalemate.
This government has gone through 18 shutdowns in the last 37 years but NEVER has a President barricaded open air venues like national memorials. Indeed, he has gone so far as to forbid the use of turnouts on public roads that offer passersby distant views of Mt. Rushmore and Yosemite. He has ordered people out of their own homes or ordered businesses to close just because they lease their land from the federal government. He has even tried to close the Atlantic Ocean to Florida fishermen.
In the past, Presidents have done everything they could to minimize the impacts of shutdowns; this President is going to ridiculous extremes to maximize the suffering that people must endure. On park ranger told a reporter, “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”
And when the House has passed stop-gap measures to minimize these impacts, the President and the Senate have summarily rejected them.
The third development is the rapid unraveling of Obamacare.
As it has rolled out, millions of Americans have discovered that their health insurance rates have skyrocketed, or they are losing their health plans entirely, or they are having their hours cut back at work.
It is very clear the public isn’t buying these new government-brokered policies. 170,000 people visited the Maryland exchange looking for affordable insurance since it opened more than a week ago. Only 326 have actually bought these plans. That’s less than 2/10ths of one percent.
Imagine that you have the only store in town, people are required by law to purchase your product, you open for business and 99.8 percent of the customers who walk into your store walk out again without buying your product. Do you think you have a problem?
We can’t pretend this isn’t happening. Millions of Americans RIGHT NOW are losing their health plans and NOT finding affordable replacements – this matter must be resolved and it must be resolved now.
This government only exists by the consent of the governed. When it deliberately goes out of its way to maximize the pain and suffering of the American people in this crisis, it jeopardizes that consent. This matter must be resolved and it must be resolved now.
And this government is simply not designed to function with one party refusing to talk to the other – with one house refusing to resolve the differences that divide it from the other. This simple failure is at the heart of our nation’s distress, and it, too, must be resolved and must be resolved now.
We are now five years into this administration. They have not been happy ones for our nation.
But now we have arrived at a crisis, or more precisely at three crises: one that is costing millions of Americans the health plans they liked and were told they could keep; one that defines the relationship between the government and the people; and one that strikes at the heart of the basic functions of our fundamental institutions.
The Constitution’s framers gave us all the tools necessary to resolve these crises save one – and that one is what Lincoln called, “the better angels of our nature.”
Only WE can appeal to those angels, and we must do so before more harm befalls our country.
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