Editorial: The GOP extremist in chief
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio and Republican members of the House of Representatives rally after passing a bill that would fund the government for three months while crippling the health care law that was the signature accomplishment of President Barack Obama's first term, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has pronounced the bill dead on arrival and calls the House exercise a "waste of time." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Once again, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is playing politics with the American economy. While one side or another will win this reckless budget dispute, we are all losers here.
Rather than participate with the executive branch in funding federal government operations in the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, the House’s increasingly extremist ranks want a showdown over the Affordable Care Act, after taking 40 votes to defund, repeal or change the health care law since its passage. The House voted 230-189 Friday for a stopgap funding measure that does not pay for the legislation also known as Obamacare.
That isn’t really news — and what will happen in the next three weeks isn’t either: another drama over whether the U.S. will meet its financial obligations, or hit a debt limit and default not just on investors who buy our Treasury notes but on ordinary Americans.
To appear at least half-human, House members now embraced by Speaker John Boehner want the Treasury to make it a priority to issue Social Security and disability payments when it is no longer able to meet all of its expenses.
That’s as nice a gesture as passing someone a handkerchief after cutting their arm off.
Rabid ideologues within the Republican Party, people like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, say members of Congress must do the people’s bidding and bring Obamacare down, even if it’s likely that such an effort lacks the votes it needs to pass in the Senate. This week, Boehner goaded the Senate, saying it is that chamber’s turn “to have this fight.”
Having found himself unable to corral tea party Republicans any longer, Boehner signed on to their economic death wish and is saddling them up for a final shootout.
Not everyone on the Republican side is on board with Boehner’s gamble. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the far-right trade group that shares a name with local business groups but none of their common sense, is urging Congress to unhitch the debt limit talks from fury over Obamacare. In a letter, the group’s executive vice president asked House members to fund the government and lift the debt ceiling — and only then move on to the battle over Obamacare. And the other senator from Texas, Republican John Cornyn, said his party should focus on winning control of the Senate in 2014. Shutting down the government in 2013, he said, would not help his party achieve that.
Whatever this battle yields politically, millions of Americans whose livelihoods depend on a healthy economy will suffer. The recovery from the Great Recession still sputters. The monkeyshines in the House aren’t just unproductive, they are destructive.
In their surprise decision this week to continue a massive stimulative bond-buying program, the governors of the Federal Reserve considered the impact of another budget and debt showdown. Past fiscal gamesmanship kept business investment on the sidelines, weakening job growth and the overall economic outlook.
President Obama, meantime, gets poor marks for his handling of the economy, even after he spent this summer talking up ways to improve it. A new Pew Research Center poll finds that 52 percent of respondents disapprove of his economic leadership. Public opinion, especially on the health care law, has been skewed by misinformation spread by the president’s enemies.
The Pew poll will have corks popping in Boehner’s office, provided they don’t look at their own approval ratings. Boehner’s House has blocked scores of measures the administration put forward to help move the economy forward.
Instead, the economic well-being of most Americans, three years after the official end of the recession, is rocky. Census figures released Thursday show poverty rising in single-mother families. The number of lower-income households is increasing. The president acknowledged this week that few in the middle class see their prospects improving.
We’ve been through the most severe downturn in two generations.
Extremists in the House seem bent on making the worst times roll.