Monday, September 30, 2013

An Iowan's Thoughts on the Shutdown..

For the last few days, the political theater that is the fight over funding the federal government has gotten
interesting enough to finally bring me back to blogging for the first time in several months.

Of course, this all started with Senator Ted Cruz calling for House Republicans to once again pass a bill against President Obama's landmark health care law, nicknamed "Obamacare", in this case attached to the continuing resolution to fund the federal government. When the bill reached the Senate, Cruz performed an impressive 21 hour speech from the Senate floor (though not strictly a "filibuster" in the traditional sense) not only denouncing Obamacare but also, in many ways the Senate/Congress itself.

Many criticized this speech as nothing but a stunt designed to garner attention to long-since passed and signed law but also himself. Regardless of the reason he did it, I have to say that watching his speech was not only fascinating but also quite refreshing. To hear a member of the Senate criticize the very body itself (including members of both parties) so vocally and strongly is a rare thing and to hear it for over 20 hours is even better. Arguably the best part of his speech was the civilized and thoughtful debate Cruz had with his Democrat counterpart from Virginia, Tim Kaine. The two senators went back and forth discussing the meaning of his speech and why he was so adamantly opposing the implementation of Obamacare. This one-on-one exchange was made better by the fact that until Kaine stepped onto the Senate floor, Cruz had the room largely to himself besides a few Republican comrades.

Ultimately, Cruz's speech failed to move enough of his fellow Republican colleagues to put a strong effort to stop Majority Leader Harry Reid from stripping the anti-Obamacare provisions from the House bill. The bill, now "clean" of any anti-Obama amendments, was sent back to the GOP-controlled House. Many suspected the House would cave-in and pass the stripped bill and thus end all talk of a government shutdown. So sure was Harry Reid of this apparently, he and the rest of the Senate remained out of town until Monday. But the House didn't cave-in (at least not yet). Instead, they added back the anti-Obama amendments to the bill and sent it to the now empty Senate.

Many on the right applauded the House's strength in the face of almost certain failure and the strong possibility that the GOP would be blamed. Others of course (including some prominent members of the GOP) said that not only was the House's action futile, it was ultimately going to do more harm than good and wasn't worth all the effort.

Predictably, when the Senate returned to business on Monday, they quickly voted down the House's 2nd attempt at a continuing resolution by a party-line vote. This now puts the ball back in the House's court.

And now, as I am typing this, the federal government of the United States of America has shut down for the first time since 1996 and there is no immediate end in sight.

Now, what to think of all this. Personally, the Republicans are clearly in the weaker negotiating position. While Obamacare is obviously not the most popular law, to say this dislike of the law translates to a majority of Americans approving to shutting down the federal government largely because of it is a bit of a more difficult argument to make. In the end, I suspect this fundamental gamble may force the GOP to fold their hand.

On the other hand, I actually approve the idea of a government shut down. Now before the more lefty-readers start running around like their hair is on fire, let me explain. For one, we have many hear-shut downs over the last few years and as such, many folks often are of the belief that the federal government would never really shut down because the consequences would be so great and it would be a lose-lose for both parties. I think this is partially because the last shutdown was so long ago, most folks don't remember the shutdown of 1996 (including the author) and thus just assume that some kind of deal will be made at the 11th hour and all will be well in the morning. As such, actually having a government shut down is my opinion is a good lesson in how the federal government not only works, but how its functions can come to a screaming halt!

Also, given how many political shock waves of the last government shut down caused back in the 90's, I think this could be just the thing to cause some waves in our current climate of massive governmental dysfunction. Long story short: a bit of political chaos is good medicine for an ailing and dysfunctional federal government. Whether this shut down will have the same level of effect the 1996 shut down did will hard to judge right now but the possibility is certainly there.

Then of course, there is the issue of who exactly will get blamed for the shut down. That very much depends. For the moment, the Democrats still arguably have the stronger case for denying as much blame as possible since it was the Republicans who modified the continuing resolution with the anti-Obamacare amendments in the first place. However, if the GOP plays their cards right and plays the politics game just right, they very well could turn this against the Democrats and by extension the President. So, this like everything else concerning this shut down, will be continued.

So, what lies ahead for the country now that the federal government has shut down? So far, that is hard to say. So far there is no sign Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is willing to yield at all. On the other hand, while the Republicans haven't given in yet, they do seem to be willing to move their position somewhat on the topic of HOW exactly they want to delay/modify Obamacare.

Who will win? Who will yield?...Stay tuned!

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