House Republicans are in crisis, and their internal problems are leading the United States into its greatest constitutional challenge to date. That is whether members of the legislative branch can use the budget process, or the debt ceiling as a tool to blackmail or intimidate the executive branch into submission.
“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
While many Americans don’t like the idea of Obamacare (The American Affordable Care Act), the law has gone through its paces already, passing the House and Senate, as well as being pushed into the Supreme Court, where a Republican Chief Justice issued the 5-4 decision that the law is, in fact, constitutional. Disappointed, disheartened and reactive, a small faction of Tea-Party Republicans have led the charge to connect funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, to the dismantling of Obamacare by trying to de-fund it. They used, as their one tool, the general funding of all government, essentially forcing the shutdown of the government from coast-to-coast, causing millions of other problems, and ultimately costing billions of dollars.
This same group of radical Tea-Party members has also largely under-funded Dodd-Frank, strangling the ability of the government to enforce the law, regulate financial services and prevent the types of abuses that caused the 2008 financial crisis. With Obamacare, which is modeled on Romneycare – the Massachusetts health care plan created by then Republican governor Mitt Romney – this small faction has strangled the Congress and the Nation, trying to force the President into submission.
In a week’s time, for the first time in its 237 year old history, the US Government will default on its payments. Still suffering a drop in its credit rating from the first time the Tea-Party tried to hold the government hostage, the default in payments will still further erode the nation’s creditworthiness, raising its cost of credit, forcing the government to pay more for its outstanding debt. In turn, the effect will be felt in increased mortgage rates, credit card interest rates, and an increasing tightening of credit in the marketplace, costing millions of jobs and likely resulting in a return to the recession, if not a full-scale depression.
Through all this, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), has been strangled in his efforts to deal with the more moderate wing of his party, many of whom are up-in-arms over his pandering to the radicals. The moderates realize what’s truly at stake, while the radicals are only concerned with winning their point, ignorant of consequences or the general opinion of the people on a national basis, and disregarding the possibility that their actions will cause a long-term constitutional crisis.
If they’re successful, and cause the default, every President in future will face the threat of legislative blackmail. Irrespective of political party, future presidents will be held to an unreachable standard that will break the back of the American government. As it is, this Congress has turned the world’s most powerful economic engine into a laughing stock around the world, and reduced the nation that won World Wars I and II into a third-world political joke.
Meanwhile, Boehner, who’d like nothing more than to resolve this, is under increasing pressure from everyone to negotiate in good faith with the President. Pushed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Boehner is in the most difficult position – deciding whether to negotiate with the President for the benefit of the Nation as a whole (ignoring his radical members) or, continuing support for the radicals and taking the Nation to the brink of economic ruin.
The worst part of this is that moderate Republicans have known, all along, that the radicals goal of holding the economy hostage would never work. They know the risks, dangers and pitfalls of continuing the pretense of keeping the Democrats and Republicans from passing a clean continuing resolution (CR) and raising the debt ceiling.
President Obama, trying to remain stalwart and protect both his landmark legislation and the Nation’s economic growth, has signaled that he’s willing to put many cost-savings options on the table, but that a clean CR and a debt ceiling bill have to be passed without delays or continued threats. This adds to the Speaker’s woes. On one hand, he has the opportunity to achieve what the majority of Republicans have wanted for some time, but it’s being blocked by his own radical wing.
What Boehner isn’t seeing is an escape. He has no view of an end-game, and no way out of this without hurting someone. However, he’s also been blinded to the impact of this government shutdown on the Republican Party as a whole. Americans, as polls show, are holding the GOP primarily responsible for this crisis. If it reaches a default of our debts, come 2014, even safe Republican seats will be in play, and in danger of loss. This happened after the last government shutdown, so he must be worried about losing the House to the Democrats again.
The question we pose today is whether it is a violation of the Constitution, and thus a breach of their oath of office, for the radicals to prevent the government from continue operating, or from paying its bills on time?