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.
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.
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.
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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