The government shutdown may be costing the country as much as billions of dollars a day according to some estimates, and it threatens to stagnate the recovery of our fragile economy. 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed, and that number doesn’t even include the thousands of small business, government contractors and countless others who have been negatively affected by the shutdown.
One thing is clear: when it comes to placing the blame for the government shutdown, there is only one party to look at. That, of course, is the Republican Party, which in the past few years, and specifically in the past few weeks, has made a mockery of our political system. All of its integrity is on the line right now, and all because the Republicans have decided to play a partisan game with no winners.
Even if you think that the Republicans are sincerely concerned with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, it does nothing to excuse their behavior. This isn’t about a debate regarding federal spending or universal healthcare—everyone knows that there are legitimate and reasonable opinions on both sides of the aisle when it comes to debating those questions.
This is about having faith in the integrity of our political system and in our constitution. Throughout the course of American history, there have been major disagreements between the two parties on paving the best way forward for the nation. But these disagreements have never led to the absurdity like we are currently experiencing, which can only be referred to as hostage-taking by the fringe of the Tea Party.
The American Constitution is very clear about the process in which a bill becomes a law. There’s nothing here to debate. As soon as the House of Representative and the Senate pass a bill and then it is signed by the President, it becomes a law. That’s patently clear according to the constitution, which the Tea Party claims to hold close to their hearts.
Well, three years ago the American political system went through these very motions when passing the Affordable Care Act as a law. It was passed by both chambers of Congress, and then President Obama signed it. From that moment and onward, it was a law and there was nothing left for the legislative branch of government to debate unless they repealed the law.
But the Republicans did not give up hope, because in the deep wisdom of our founding fathers it was decided that our government would have a system of checks and balances. The judicial branch, as represented by the Supreme Court, has the ability to declare a law unconstitutional. When it came to passing judgment on the ACA, it was decided by a vote of 5-4 that it was perfectly in line with the constitution.
This should have been the end of the discussion, because until now everything had been played according to the rules of the constitution. If the Republicans wanted to repeal the ACA, it would be within their rights, but they have nowhere near the required number of votes.
It would seem that moderates in the Republican Party realized that this was the case, and they were ready to admit that the legislative process had run its course and there was nothing left in their power to do. After all, that’s how the American political system has functioned from day one when our system of check and balances was implemented.
But one thing went terribly wrong: the Tea Party didn’t care that according to the constitution the ACA was law.
They demanded that it was still up for discussion, that there was still something left to debate and negotiate, even years after the ACA became a law. This is an absurdity and an affront to the integrity of our entire political system—it paves the road not only for gridlock today, but for future disasters as well.
The Republican party should have stood up to its extremists and demanded they follow the rules of the constitution, but they didn’t. Therefore, it would be perfectly reasonable to say that their party deserves 100% of the blame for this shutdown.
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