Friday, September 13, 2013

Government by extortion


Magruder’s “American Government,” the quintessential text updated every year to reflect current events and issues, may need a new title. Call it simply, “Who Needs Elections? We Have Extortion.”  
    This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor reportedly said that congressional Republicans will demand a one-year delay in the implementation to the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Speaker John Boehner said he will try to force the fight over funding the ACA into the Senate.
    Since the law was passed by the Congress and signed into law in 2009, House Republicans have taken 40 votes to stop this act. So far, they have failed 40 times to get the rest of the government to go along with their votes. Now, they are going to try extortion.
    The Republican stance is this: Defund the ACA or we will not vote to extend the federal debt ceiling, according to Cantor and Boehner.
    Failing to extend the debt ceiling would not affect the ACA funding. Instead, sometime between Oct. 18 and Nov. 5, it would force the government into default over past spending, ruining the full faith and credit of the United States.
    Put simply, Cantor and Boehner are saying that if the House and Senate won’t vote for what they want within the governing processes established in the U.S. Constitution, they will get their way by threatening real damage to the entire country.
    Every high school student, every immigrant studying to become a citizen, is exposed to some version of “How a Bill Becomes a Law.” A proposal in the form of a bill must gain a majority of votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate and then be signed by the president, and on occasion be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Those were the very steps by which the Affordable Care Act became a law.
    If the extortion strategy works, in the current atmosphere of hyper-partisanship, it is certain to be the new way the minority defeats laws approved by the majority.
    Both sides can play the game. Do away with Medicare or we will shut down the government. Eliminate the oil depletion allowance or we will shut down the government.
    The problem is that the Republicans just don’t like the fact that the Affordable Care Act made it through the steps and became law. The fact that House Republicans don’t like it a whole, whole, whole lot cannot justify a willingness to replace the system of representative democracy with scorched earth.
    Extortion is no way to run a country.




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