Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Does a clean CR mean a clean shot at Republicans?

I have been gnashing my teeth at Democrats' preemptive surrender on the spending levels in the ten-week continuing resolution passed by the House, which establishes the sequester as a spending baseline.  Why not amend the CR to reflect the spending levels in the House budget, I thought, as well as stripping out the defunding of Obamacare, and then negotiate over spending?  That would leave Republicans an out: they could claim the victory they've already won (on spending).

Maybe I was wrong.  Conceding the House spending levels puts the spotlight squarely on Republicans' extraneous demands. And oh did Obama shine that spotlight today.  He's fought two skillful election campaigns against Republicans, but I don't think he's ever so squarely accused them of moral bankruptcy as this:

No, this shutdown is not about deficits, it’s not about budgets.  This shutdown is about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it.  It’s all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act.  This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days.  I know it’s strange that one party would make keeping people uninsured the centerpiece of their agenda, but that apparently is what it is.
That is Lincoln, with only a glimmer of the judge-not caveat ("apparently")...
It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. 
The accusation of moral bankruptcy encompassed three years of relentless GOP lying:
Remember most Republicans have made a whole bunch of predictions about this law that haven’t come true.  There are no “death panels.”  Costs haven’t skyrocketed; they’re growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.  The last three years since I signed the Affordable Care Act into law are the three slowest rates of health spending growth on record.

And contrary to Republican claims, this law hasn’t “destroyed” our economy.  Over the past three and a half years, our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs.  Just today, we learned that our manufacturers are growing at the fastest rate in two and a half years.  They have factored in the Affordable Care Act. They don't think it’s a problem.  What’s weighing on the economy is not the Affordable Care Act, but the constant series of crises and the unwillingness to pass a reasonable budget by a faction of the Republican Party.
 ..and moved on to the moral bankruptcy of threatening national bankruptcy:
And I want to underscore the fact that Congress doesn’t just have to end this shutdown and reopen the government -- Congress generally has to stop governing by crisis.  They have to break this habit.  It is a drag on the economy.  It is not worthy of this country.

For example, one of the most important things Congress has to do in the next couple weeks is to raise what's called the debt ceiling.  And it's important to understand what this is.  This is a routine vote.  Congress has taken this vote 45 times to raise the debt ceiling since Ronald Reagan took office.  It does not cost taxpayers a single dime.  It does not grow our deficits by a single dime.  It does not authorize anybody to spend any new money whatsoever.  All it does is authorize the Treasury to pay the bills on what Congress has already spent.

Think about that.  If you buy a car and you’ve got a car note, you do not save money by not paying your car note.  You’re just a deadbeat.  If you buy a house, you don’t save money by not authorizing yourself to pay the mortgage.  You’re just going to be foreclosed on your home.  That’s what this is about.

It is routine.  It is what they’re supposed to do.  This is not a concession to me.  It is not some demand that’s unreasonable that I’m making.  This is what Congress is supposed to do as a routine matter.  And they shouldn’t wait until the last minute to do it.  The last time Republicans even threatened this course of action -- many of you remember, back in 2011 -- our economy staggered, our credit rating was downgraded for the first time.  If they go through with it this time and force the United States to default on its obligations for the first time in history, it would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown -- as bad as a shutdown is.  It would be an economic shutdown.

So I’ll speak more on this in the coming days, but let me repeat:  I will not negotiate over Congress’s responsibility to pay bills it’s already racked up.  I’m not going to allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to refight a settled election or extract ideological demands.  Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hardworking families over a law you don’t like.
The Republicans are getting hammered by public opinion.  And this attack on their values and conduct is as clean as the Senate CR.  The GOP stands naked, fighting not deficits but a great white whale of their imagining.

The question is whether this moral bludgeoning will lead first to a clean CR and then to a clean debt ceiling hike -- and if so, with the Hastert Rule in tatters, the non-Tea Party will be empowered to strike a budget deal that entails some actual compromise and releases us from the sequester.

1 comment:

  1. Suggestion: Start a campaign with one simple message to John Boehner. #BringacleanCRtothefloorforavote
    My concern is that we have to unite around a message that is clear and concise. Everyone that feels this way should message their congressman and John Boehner. I say we go on the offensive and stop responding to the distractions they are throwing off the back of the truck (such as we want to help the poor children with cancer that can't get access to NIH).