Tom Karst, National EditorListening to the politicians who spoke at the Washington Public Policy Conference, there is nothing that pains our elected representatives more than the government shutdown that began Oct. 1.
That may well be the case, but the frustrated and impassioned lawmakers leave one wondering how we ever arrived at our current unhappy state if both sides of the aisle so much want to talk things out.
“I did not want a shutdown, nor did my colleagues want a shutdown,” said Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., chairman of the House subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture.
“We need to get back to governing, and we need to get things done,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
As the shutdown began, it seemed apparent that Republicans were spoiling for a fight over the implementation of Obamacare. While the GOP may have the majority of the public on its side, President Barack Obama showed no signs of giving in.
It played out with extremely divisive politics and the first government shutdown in 17 years.
Compared with the U.S. Congress, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., said even the California legislature looked bipartisan in comparison.
“There was still enough of a working relationship where you could negotiate on issues,” he said in an address to the WPPC Oct. 2.
While he admitted that dysfunctional Sacramento should not be a model for Congress, he made his point about the intractability of the government shutdown.
“We’ve got to get this solved and solved immediately,” he said with no apparent sarcasm.
House Republicans have framed the shutdown as a fight for fair rules over Obamacare.
Denham said Obama has materially changed some aspect of the health care law 17 times during the past eight months, outside of the oversight of Congress.
“The President can’t pick what parts of laws he wants to implement,” he said.
Denham argued Obama was out of line in making arbitrary exclusions for unions and big business.
“If you are going to give the employer mandate a one year delay, then why not do it for the individual mandate?” he asked.
When and if Congress gets past the government shutdown, Denham said Republicans are concerned about the Senate’s request for an unlimited debt ceiling.
He called that issue the crux of the current friction between Republicans and Democrats.
Without a budget in five years, Congress has funded programs with a series of continuing resolutions.