Tea Partiers in D.C. blew $24 billion — and they would do it again

— October 22, 2013

The federal government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis probably helped save House Speaker John Boehner’s job and gave U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz a platform to raise money and launch his doomed 2016 presidential run. Both of these things are worth absolutely nothing to the American people.

Kerry Drake

But the cost to taxpayers was astronomical. Standard & Poor’s estimates the 16-day, Republican-led debacle cost the nation’s economy $24 billion, and that’s not even including the higher interest rates that the United States will be forced to pay for years as a result of coming within hours of defaulting on its debts.

To put that into some perspective, $24 billion would fund the entire federal Head Start program for three years. It would fund Wyoming’s state government at its current level for six years.

Amazingly, this was done by Republicans in the U.S. House who are constantly clamoring for less government spending. Throwing $24 billion down the drain to fight a battle against Obamacare that it obviously couldn’t win makes this group among the biggest hypocrites ever in office.

Because a small group of Tea Party Republicans would only agree to a short-term resolution to fund the government until January, they could try to hold our government hostage again in three months. I hope the hammering the party is taking in every national poll for creating this mess will drive enough sensible, moderate Republicans to tell these extreme right-wing clowns to knock it off.

The GOP is at a historic crossroads, and unless party leaders make the right decisions in the next few months, the party may not be able to survive. Its only goal for the past five years has been to obstruct everything President Barack Obama has tried to do, even when it’s something Republicans suggested in the first place, like the health care reform that became Obamacare.

It’s one thing for a party to disagree with an administration’s goals and fight to institute its own agenda; it’s quite another to hold the country hostage by shutting down the federal government and threatening to throw the world’s economy into chaos by refusing to pay the nation’s bills. The lunatics are in charge of the U.S. House, and the tremendous defeat they just suffered hasn’t phased them. The Tea Party representatives immediately started talking about making the country suffer more in their next fight to kill Obamacare.

It’s embarrassing — make that outrageous — that two-thirds of Wyoming’s congressional delegation voted against last week’s last-ditch effort to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. Only Sen. John Barrasso, who is certainly no fan of the Affordable Care Act, had enough sense to do the right thing for his country.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis was one of the 144 House Republicans who voted against the measure. Sen. Mike Enzi joined 17 other Senate Republicans who also voted no.

Sen. John Barrasso speaks at the 2012 State of Indian Nations conference in Washington, D.C. Barrasso broke from his Wyoming colleagues and voted in favor of the measure that re-opened the federal government last week. (National Congress of American Indians/Flickr — click to view)

Barrasso, as a member of his party’s leadership in the Senate, was likely compelled to show unity on a plan that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) helped craft. Frankly, I don’t care why he did it. The fact is that he stepped up and voted to end his party’s disastrous moves, even when he knew that he would take a hit from the ultra-conservatives in Wyoming. And boy, did he ever.

“It is obvious John Barrasso is a RINO (Republican in Name Only). He voted AGAINST cloture and FOR the budget bill that passed the Senate. I have lost ALL respect for him,” one woman wrote on his Facebook page.

Another woman asked the senator, “Please explain to me why in the world you would vote for something that HURTS those of us who voted for you? My health care premiums are going to double, if not triple. … I promise with all of my heart and soul that you will NEVER receive another vote from me in my lifetime.”

Barrasso also received some comments from people thanking him for his vote, but by their tone they were obviously people who would never cast a ballot for him. It shouldn’t hurt his re-election chances, but if the Tea Party does actually try to run someone against him in his next primary, it will show how dangerously out of control it is. There are very few senators who are more conservative than Barrasso.

Enzi’s opponent, Liz Cheney, may have been able to make a huge deal out of it in their primary next year if he had cast a vote in favor of the bill, even though she is on record as being against the shutdown when it occurred. Politically, he couldn’t risk being seen as less conservative than Cheney — which is absolutely no excuse for casting a vote that, had it prevailed, would have driven us all off the economic cliff and irreparably harmed our country. Wyoming voters should remember his inexcusable, reckless behavior next year.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis took part in a pro-coal “Working for Wyoming” event earlier this year. Lummis was in favor of the government shutdown and voted against the bill that passed to re-open the federal government and avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt. (Courtesy of Cynthia Lummis’ press staff — click to enlarge)

Not surprisingly, Rep. Cynthia Lummis stood with her Tea Party pals, as she did during the entire travesty. She was one of 80 House Republicans who implored Boehner to threaten to shut down the federal government if Obamacare wasn’t defunded, and one of 50 who told him to fight for cuts to Social Security that would hurt low-income seniors.

Lummis protected herself against Tea Party opposition next year, but now I wouldn’t be surprised to see her have to deal with a challenge from a moderate member of her party. It’s unlikely, but if the fallout from the shutdown and debt ceiling controversies has the negative impact in Wyoming that it deserves, a credible Democratic opponent could also emerge.

Democrats need to hammer home the message that what House Republicans did — with the support of some Senate colleagues — was the equivalent of economic terrorism. Lummis and Enzi joined the crowd that was willing to hold our government hostage, all because their party couldn’t convince voters or the U.S. Supreme Court that Obamacare needed to be killed before it was even implemented.

These politicians have no respect for the Constitution or the legislative process, which requires them to make a winning argument if they want to make policy and budgetary changes to existing law. They whine about our spiraling debt, and ignore the fact that they voted for two wars under George W. Bush that were conducted off the books during his presidency, along with his unfunded Medicare Part D plan.

They were also willing to blow $24 billion of taxpayers’ money because they didn’t get their way, and if the debt ceiling deadline hadn’t hit when it did, more portions of the federal government would likely be shut down soon and even more billions of dollars wasted.

The extreme right-wing of the Republican Party has demonstrated beyond a doubt that it has no respect for the federal government and just wants to see it fail, at any cost. Americans are well-known for voting against their own best interests, but maybe this fiasco will wake up enough people to recognize the Tea Partiers for what they are — shameless hucksters who don’t deserve anyone’s vote.

— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is the editor-in-chief of The Casper Citizen, a nonprofit, online community newspaper. It can be viewed at www.caspercitizen.com.

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Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. It takes two to tango good sir and if Bush was able to negotiate to get congress to pass CR then Obama could have also. Is it the tea party’s fault that Obama “would not negotiate”? Would you have the same opinion if Bush wouldn’t even talk to Dems? What kind of headline would you write? I’m sure it wouldn’t be that the Democrats are just the craziest most unreasonable racist idiotic people on the earth! You need to examine your bias and admit that as someone who is paid to fashion words you have a tendency, as many others in your profession do, to think that Writing About Things translates to Thinking Deep Thoughts about things. You are not special. Our president is not special. And between the two of you, it seems that making America out to be Nothing Special is your forte.
    So America wasted 24 Billion. Lets see some articles about EXACTLY how much is wasted in Government and then we can talk with feigned outrage that Washington wastes money.
    Obama has never successfully managed ANYTHING. If you say he managed his campaign and can say it with a straight face then shame on you.
    “But it isn’t his fault! those mean Republicans! Those tricky NSA guys! It was Bush!” Guess what? Republicans no more support the president then Democrats supported Bush, and yet the ‘imbicile cowboy’ was able to get things passed in congress that wasn’t on party lines.
    Like rbd says, we need a leader, someone who can explain how action and negotiating can benefit both parties. Instead Obama stands in front of a Microphone and lies, explaining that nothing is his fault and shmucks in the media think that “challenging the narrative” means challenging people who don’t believe in the false mesiah as they do .
    In Russia it was always someone else’s fault that things didn’t work and those responsible ended up in the gulag. Things got worse until there was no one else to send. Should we outlaw the teaparty? Get rid of Guns? Outlaw public display of Religion? At what point will “open minded progressives” have shut down enough non-likeminded people that we can “progress” to the type of society that has failed in Cuba, Russia, China, Cambodia and France?
    America will never die, try as you might to silence people who just won’t take your word that you know best, you will never defeat truth.

  2. GWarnock,

    It has nothing to do with Fox News – like most liberals you assume the conservative element only watch Fox News. Just like your comment last week regarding Congress not reading the most recent legislation before they passed it, you ignored the fact that most legislators never read Obama Care to begin with.

    Again, like most of the liberal element in this country, you choose to attack those with opposite view with personal comments, yet ignore the facts and issues because you have nothing to support your position other than your personal opinion. Like Mr. Drake calling Congress lunatics and terrorists, you choose the personal route because your position lacks the facts and support, it sells papers, facts and real life are boring. When all else fails, attack the person.

    It is time we stand up to defend ourselves from the entitlement society before the 47% over run us. Life would be much different if everybody had to give “just a little more” not just those that have worked hard to make it. Instead, those that take want more and those that have, those that have worked hard to build what they have, are forced to give until they have no more. Economic Terrorism. If we keep giving a little more, pretty soon 100% of us will have no more to give.

  3. Here we go……more liberal rantings……bashing the conservatives. What about the Billion $$$ wasted on this website fiasco? Care to comment about that? This waste of money is just the beginning……..more to come.

    What about the double digit increases in health insurance those with insurance are facing? We face 14% increases this year, we have already been told we will fact 30% next year. On top of that, more than likely, those that are already have insurance are paying the taxes that will subsidize those that do not pay taxes or have insurance because our tax bills will be increasing. Health insurance provided by small employers……a thing of the past……

    What about the law abiding taxpaying Americans facing liberal terrorism from more taxation – you know, just a little more. “Terrorism” works both ways. The debt has spiraled in this country and will continue to do so under the liberal entitlement society spending of this President and his band of merry democrats. Take, take, take……..take from those earning a living, give to those that chose not to participate in the economy. Taxation terrorism.

    Conservative, liberal, independent, your rantings only contribute to the ongoing divide in this country. What about some leadership? A real leader, a real “party” would step up and lead this country. The media, assuming they were unbiased, would challenge the leaders of this country to lead, find the right path. Instead, we use words like economic terrorism, bash those with an alternative opinion, chastise those with views that are different from yours. The liberal media gives this administration a free pass………let’s challenge this administration to lead, not teleprompt, but real leadership.

    Wyoming, one of the last free states. Don’t let the liberals infiltrate any further. Look what the liberal policies have done in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia, Kolorado (just the front range, we still have hope in North Colorado and Moffitt County), the PRNY, PRMass……..if liberal policies worked, we would all be liberals, living off the government feed trough……..

  4. I think most people are tired of the Tea Party hucksters, and the Climate Change Hucksters. Sadly, the media loves both.

  5. Thank you for “telling it like it is”. I find it totally shameful that the Obstructionists in Congress, espousing fiscal responsibility, blow 24 billion of our tax dollars and then crow about it. Kudos (one time) for Sen Brassaso. Wyoming’s Congressional delegation needs to be replaced by folks with good common sense. Can anyone please tell me how much of the 24 bil was Wyoming’s share?