The Drake's Take

Dangerous congressional game was never about Obamacare

— October 4, 2013

“Stupid is as stupid does.” 
— Young Forrest Gump, quoting his momma

Kerry Drake

Lately Republicans in Congress have managed to top their mistakes every day. Just when you think their actions can’t get any more hypocritical, ludicrous or mean, along comes a representative who takes their party’s game to a whole new level.

After pretending they shut down the federal government last week because of their hatred of Obamacare — which put the GOP in the crazy position of trying to “save” millions of Americans from affordable health insurance — Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) stunned observers by finally telling the truth.

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” Stutzman, one of the Tea Partiers calling all of the shots in the House, whined to a Washington Examiner reporter after the effort failed. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

That’s the first true statement that’s been uttered by one of these fools since they launched this fiasco, which has seen some 800,000 federal workers furloughed and ground much of what the government does to a halt.

The GOP playbook has changed at a dizzying rate since Monday, when President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats shot down their last-ditch efforts to justify the government shutdown they engineered. When Republicans realized they weren’t going to make the opposition blink when the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges were due to go online the next day, they quickly jettisoned defunding Obamacare as a rationale for their recklessness.

Instead, because they didn’t want to be blamed for the shutdown that was about to happen, they complained bitterly that the Democrats refused to negotiate on their budget differences. But it rang hollow when Democrats pointed out that House Republicans had refused on 18 occasions to appoint budget conferees to work with senators.

Besides, Senate Democrats had already agreed to much lower budget levels than they wanted in a continuing resolution they accepted to keep the government running for another two months. Instead of undoing much of the damage to social services and education programs that Republicans had rammed through with the sequester, Democratic leaders put that fight on hold for the good of the country.

So Stutzman’s party already had its victory, but Tea Partiers were either too stubborn or too stupid to recognize it. But there’s also a third option, which is probably closer to the truth: These cynical politicians just wanted to shut down the federal government to prove that they could. Heck, they even campaigned on it.

Last Tuesday, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow showed her audience a 2010 clip of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) outlining the GOP’s strategy: “If we say, look, we’re in partnership with the American people, we’re listening to the American people, this is what we’re going to do. If the government shuts down, we want you with us. … We’ve got to have you there because later on, you all will call us and say, look, I didn’t get my check. Daddy can’t go to the VA. You know, the national parks are closed. We need to make sure that you’re going to be with us.”

The GOP took over the House in January 2011 and has been threatening to shut down the government over different manufactured crises ever since. They finally did it, ostensibly over Obamacare, but any reason would do because in their misguided minds, they thought the American people would have their backs. And if they didn’t, they always figured they could shift the blame onto the Democrats — this time for the crime of not unilaterally caving into their demands to dismantle a law that was passed by Congress, signed by the president, upheld by the Supreme Court and reaffirmed in the presidential election last year.

When the Tea Party contingent shut down the government, they were downright giddy. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) excitedly said, “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.” But they stumbled over themselves trying to weasel out of the mess they made.

Bachmann and her pals desperately tried to latch on to any photo-op they could think of that might mask the stench of what they did to the American people. When veterans were upset that the World War II Monument they flew to Washington to see was closed, Republican congressmen pretended they were outraged by the shutdown that they created. “Every day there’s a shutdown, we’re going to be here to make sure the veterans get in,” Bachmann said.

Shamelessly, they condemned Democrats for not agreeing to reopen the National Institutes of Health after the Wall Street Journal reported that 30 children were among the 200 patients who were now without treatment for their cancer.

Democrats obviously want to save cancer patients, but they want to help everyone who was put at risk because of the selfish acts of Republicans. Instead of funding piecemeal programs that the GOP thinks it can use to its advantage because they’re popular, Democrats want to put all of the federal employees back to work. That includes the food safety inspectors, the mine inspectors and the environmental regulators whose absences could lead to catastrophes.

The Democrats know that the national parks would reopen, poor women would be assured of getting food assistance for their children, federal intelligence officers would be able to track terrorists, and thousands of the other things Americans expect to be done as a function of the government would reboot if House Speaker John Boehner would simply allow the House to vote on a continuing resolution sans the Tea Party representatives’ demand to get something, anything, that they could call a victory. There are enough reasonable Republicans who would join with the entire Democratic caucus to end this stupidity.

The question we in Wyoming need to ask is, “Will our delegation continue this dangerous nonsense?” Given a clean continuing resolution, will they sign it and put the government back in operation?

Rep. Cynthia Lummis was one of 80 House members in August who signed a letter demanding that Boehner threaten a government shutdown if Obamacare wasn’t defunded. She and Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso have marched in lockstep with their party leaders in voting to carry out that threat.

Will they do so again, in defiance of all common sense, now that Obamacare isn’t even the issue they were so willing to fall on their swords for? More importantly, as Obama pointed out in his brilliant speech at a Maryland construction company on Thursday, are they part of the Republican crowd that is overjoyed at the prospect of allowing the United States to default on its debts for the first time in our history, at the expense of the nation’s — and the world’s — economy?

I sincerely hope that our delegation stands up and does what’s right for the country, and not fall back on the notion that they have safe seats no matter what they do. If they are responsible for keeping the government shut down, turning us into deadbeats and ruining our economy, they must be held accountable and replaced. So far, not one of the three has done anything to indicate they won’t follow their party leaders and take us all right over the cliff with them.

— 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.

— Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer at dustin@wyofile.com.

REPUBLISH THIS COLUMN: For details on how you can republish this column or other WyoFile content for free, click here.

If you enjoyed this column and would like to see more quality Wyoming journalism, please consider supporting WyoFile: a non-partisan, non-profit news organization dedicated to in-depth reporting on Wyoming’s people, places and policy.

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...

Join the Conversation

10 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. “If they are responsible for keeping the government shut down, turning us into deadbeats and ruining our economy, they must be held accountable and replaced.”

    With who? The ruthless daughter of an international war criminal?

    “I fight for one thing: equality under Obamacare. Members of Congress should be treated the same under the law as those they represent, the American people”

    Pffftt! A band-aid on a sucking (and I DO mean sucking) chest wound that you helped to inflict, Lummis.

  2. BBC World Service today: USA ranks 16th in overall population health. Australian males have greater longevity than USA males. USA medical costs are the highest in the world, but obviously, you don’t get what you pay for.

  3. Minor point: Ms Leslie Bailey is wrong if she believes the American health care system is the most advanced in the world ( and by implication the most successful ). it is neither, and you need not go very far to see that in a table or list of comparative health systems around the globe. We are well down the list in almost every category ( most alarmingly infant mortality) except one: Costs. US medicine costs a helluva lot more than anwyehre else, with regrettably less success. It is also the only For Profit health care system in the developed world , run not by governments but by corporations an Insurors. Big Medicine is right up there alongside Big Oil, King Coal, Wall Street tycoons and all the other robber barons.

    Which explains why when I was in Bangkok, there were entire hospitals full of all manner of foreigners but mostly Americans getting heart transplants and other major medical procedures done for 20 to 30 cents on the dollar, with better results . Chances are better than even that your most recent MRI or CT scan , regardless of where it was done, was read and interpreted by a radiologist in India or Thailand or even Europe. Your insurance company insisted on it , to save money and get a good diagnosis.

    The American health care system is bloated, broken, and morose ( think of it as having diabetes or gout at the management level ). Obamacare goes some distance toward remediating that , but only a Single Payer Public Option national healthcare system ( e.g. Canada) can save us from ourselves and the ravages of a system that too easily goes cancerous. Capitalism, which has no place in medicine.

  4. People are going to miss the point of this column, which is to clarify that the shutdown is about the shutdown. And it is disingenuous to dress it up as some noble attempt to save the country from health care reform. If the US is facing any economic threat, it is our unsustainable system of healthcare spending. Speaker Boehner said the shutdown isn’t part of a political game. Okay, then. The shutdown is about the shutdown. That is quite an admission, even if it may have been inadvertent. So it’s time for our congressional delegation — but esp Rep. Lummis — to show some leadership. This is her time to shine. She can draw upon the down-to-earth, practical traditions of Wyoming politics and show her colleagues she won’t sacrifice her constituents to serve their ideology.

  5. Imperial presidency,, really Ms. Lummis?
    Did he veto your farm bill that allows you your subsidies?

    Hostage taking/ blackmailing the livelihood of Americans/ Wyomingites to disallow the poor and un-insurable, access to healthcare is “good governance”?
    The Koch (tea) Party has no interest in helping the unfortunate, they are for enriching the rich, farm subsides anyone?
    Your arrogance shows how petty differences can keep foreign and domestic visitors from visiting our national parks and historical sites, disabling our tourist industry,, oh, they don’t contribute to your election campaign, like big oil and health insurance corporations?
    And for those of you that has only one news source, Fox News Has a First Amendment Right to Lie,, that is their liberal side, just a heads up.
    http://www.librarygrape.com/2009/06/court-fox-news-has-first-amendment.html
    Wyoming Native

  6. It is pretty obvious “The Drake” is a firm leftist! It seems that with a nation drowning in 17 trillion dollars in debt, 9 trillion which has occurred in the last five years, should have more concerns than adding another entitlement program which is unsustainable. There is no free lunch, and it is truly unfortunate that we as a group of citizens cannot come up with solutions with our dismal delivery of healthcare. As a professional health care worker for 40 years, I am ashamed at what we are doing. We have the most advanced health care, and people come here from all over the world to access it, but we cannot seem to find a way to truly make it accessible and affordable for our own.

  7. This just in from Representative Lummis —
    http://lummis.house.gov/news/email/show.aspx?ID=4GKLPNVMNN5KPGO2NBZ7CPT6HY
    No Imperial Presidency

    Dear Friends,

    This past week House Republicans worked with several of our colleagues across the aisle to pass individual funding bills to relieve some of the pain caused by the partial government shutdown. These bills would provide funds to reopen our national parks and museums, pay our National Guard and Reserve, and ensure the VA can process benefits earned by our nation’s veterans. Unfortunately for all of us, Senate Democrats continue to obstruct efforts to fund the government. This is madness.

    Since the Senate absolutely refuses to defund or delay Obamacare, I fight for one thing: equality under Obamacare. Members of Congress should be treated the same under the law as those they represent, the American people. It is unbelievable that Senate Democrats would deny funding for VA benefits processing, national parks, and the Guard and Reserve as part of their fight to keep their special Obamacare subsidy. What’s even more unbelievable is that President Obama is exempt from Obamacare.

    It is time for the Congressional Democrats and President Obama to come to the table and talk with us. An agreement can be reached, but we have to work together and negotiate. President Obama cannot have whatever he wants whenever he wants it. This is not an imperial presidency.

    Please stay in touch as I continue to fight to re-open the government and make everyone equal under Obamacare, especially those who wrote it.

    Sincerely,

    Cynthia Lummis

  8. Wile I agree with this sentiment I don’t believe that the citizens in this state care about the shut down, understand the shut down, or disagree with the tea party. Nor do I believe that Wyoming’s voting public has the will to vote out our current delegation, state or federal, for such brazen acts of stupidity…mainly because too many of the voters in this state think that opposing the president, on anything and everything, is the right thing to do.

  9. The constitution of the state of Wyoming forces our state legislators to do it right — one subject per bill. I believe each member of our congressional delegation, all of whom served in the Wyoming legislature, has endorsed this at the federal level. Now is the time for them to prove they mean it.