October 4, 2013
The government shutdown is in its fourth day. Speaker Boehner still refuses to bring up a clean Continuing Resolution (CR), even though it would pass Congress and be signed by the President, reopening the government.
The House has spent most of this week considering bills to partially fund the government. This process is more about appearances than responsible legislating. Thatís why youíve seen attempts to fund the National Park Service so tourist attractions can reopen but not the Transportation Department. The Senate and President have both rejected this path. Iím not sure where or when this all ends. Itís certainly true that this battle is about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the obsession many Republicans have with sabotaging it. I think thereís more to it though.
This is also about one of the fundamental principles of our government, the idea of majority rule. The importance of that principle is vividly on display here and itís one worth protecting.
The ACA was signed into law in 2010 after months and months of substantive and at times contentious debate. Since Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, there have been 42 attempts to repeal, defund or gut the law. Each time the effort has accomplished essentially nothing. As I noted earlier this week, Mitt Romney ran on a promise to repeal ďObamacareĒ. He lost the election. House Democrats got more votes than House Republicans and Democrats retained control of the Senate. The ACA was even declared constitutional by the Supreme Court.
Despite all of that, a small percentage of the House Republican Caucus refuses to accept the will of the majority, democratically expressed. They shut the government down because they canít accept it. The ACA is the law of the land, affirmed by the results of a national election and a Supreme Court ruling. More and more moderate Republicans are speaking out on the need for a clean CR. Unfortunately there arenít enough of those moderate voices and the extremists in the House continue to drown them out.
Imagine what our government would look like if more Members refused to respect the principle of majority rule and insisted on getting their way without regard for the consequences. It wouldnít be 17 years between government shutdowns, thatís for sure.
I believe that this battle is also about the role that government should play in our lives. Do we want to provide some help to those less fortunate in the form of nutrition assistance or home heating aid? Do we want to help our states build world class roads, bridges and subway systems? Do we want to attract cutting edge research that results in medical advances? All of that takes an investment of federal dollars.
What has been happening over the past couple years is a steady and steep reduction in federal spending. That often gets lost in the din but numbers donít lie. In two years, a total deficit reduction of almost $2.4 trillion has been achieved. In 2011, the Budget Control Act placed a cap on discretionary spending at $1.066 trillion for fiscal year 2014. That cap has been ignored by the House, with much deeper cuts going into effect as a result of sequestration.
Here are just a couple examples of how those cuts have impacted some important programs. In the past year, funding for the National Institutes of Health has been cut by $1.6 billion. Funding for Head Start has been cut by $400 million.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a budget that proposed spending $1.058 trillion for fiscal year 2014. Under the clean CR proposed in the Senate in order to reopen the government, that spending is cut to $986 billion. This is much closer to the Republican proposal than the Senateís.
In terms of cutting spending, Republicans donít seem to recognize that they are gaining significant ground. The CR that many of them say they wonít support includes deep cuts to discretionary programming.
More votes are expected in the House tomorrow and the schedule for next week is unclear. Thanks for your calls and emails of support. I appreciate all of them.