The “government” isn’t a monolithic entity, held together with impermeable glue. It’s a collection of individuals who, if they’re doing their jobs, are working each day for the good of our country and people.
As inspired as our system of government is, there are times, as we have reached now, when a small number of elected officials — this time a fundamentalist subset of the Republican Party — can monkey-wrench the legislative process and hold the country hostage to their unreasonable demands.
The bottom line, to our mind, is one of practicality: One cannot reason with bullies. Any attempt to do so presupposes a position of good faith that we have yet to see in the tea-party Republicans who are putting their beliefs and political aspirations above the law of the land.
The federal government has been forced to shut down because of a desperate attempt by Republicans to wish away the Affordable Care Act, a law that was passed and signed into law three years ago, is already in effect and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
This must not stand.
The Republicans have made a hobby out of trying to scrap what they derisively call “Obamacare.” They’ve voted dozens of times to undo the Affordable Care Act. They’ve failed each time.
The Republicans’ strategy now is to defund the ACA and try to force the Democrats’ hand by attaching it to necessary budget bills that must be passed to continue operating the federal government. That tack failed, as everyone knew it would, and as of 12:01 a.m. Oct. 1 the federal government shut down.
Amid that maelstrom of self-interest called the tea-party Republicans are lawmakers who are trying to do the people’s business. Some Republicans, such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have criticized their party brethren for their foolish strategy.
Others lawmakers, like Rep. Ron Barber, a Democrat from Arizona’s District 2, took what he describes as a proposal that could find middle ground. He voted, just before the shutdown began and after multiple votes against defunding or scrapping Obamacare, with Republicans to support a measure that would put off for one year penalties for individuals who don’t enroll for health insurance.
Barber sought to avoid the damaging government shutdown that will cost Arizonans, and the rest of the country, dearly. He thought this small change, in delaying the penalty for individuals, could be common ground.
“I felt I could support this. It is not unreasonable to delay the penalties — it doesn’t mean you can’t sign up” for insurance on the newly open health-insurance exchanges, Barber said in a phone interview Tuesday. He has been excoriated by Democrats and supporters for his vote and told the Star he wanted to make sure people understood his position.
Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Raúl Grijalva, both Democrats, voted against every Republican proposal leading up to the shutdown.
Barber voted several weeks ago, around the time President Obama announced that penalties for small businesses would be put off for a year, to delay penalties for individuals.
We understand his position but don’t agree with Barber on this — the law is 3 years old and people have until March to research, choose and enroll in a health-insurance plan, possibly with a subsidy to defray costs. It is better to evaluate the system after it has been put into use and then make changes, as has been done over years with other federal programs.
Barber said he also supported the late-Monday-night proposal because it would have made a change in health-care benefits for Congress, their staffers, the president, vice president and some presidential appointments.
“The problem is we don’t have people in the middle willing to work things out,” Barber said. “We only have people stuck on either side.”
Barber’s position to delay the individual penalty is consistent with how he has voted previously.
But the circumstances have changed. There is no cause to believe that if it had passed Republicans would be more accepting of reality in a year and allow it to go into effect. We must stand firm.
The only people who benefit from this shutdown showdown are those on the fringe right — the Republicans who are living up to their tea-party mission of dismantling the government, this time from within.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!