Since the so-called shutdown of the federal government began on Tuesday of this last week, I have spoken personally to a number of Members of Congress — all Republicans, I should point out — who are standing strong in the face of intransigence and pettiness from President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In fact, on Wednesday, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the House Republican Conference Chair, told me that she has never seen her Conference colleagues more united than they are now. That's a very different picture than the one that the mainstream media is trying to present, which is that of a Conference bitterly divided between ignorant, unreasonable, immature tea partiers who just want to fight and responsible, reasonable, mature moderates who are willing to compromise in order to make government work.
Yet it was the President, not Republicans, who have said they will not negotiate. Republicans are right when they say "by refusing to negotiate and allowing the government to shut down, President Obama and the Democratic majority in Washington have failed the most basic responsibility of governing. Their insistence on getting 100 percent of what they want, regardless of the consequences for the country, threatens to increase uncertainty for millions of Americans as our nation's economy continues to struggle to create jobs."
Americans are tired of the partisan discord and dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and they expect both parties to be willing to at least talk to each other and find solutions. But Democrats, who run the entire federal government with the exception of the House, refuse even to talk. Consequently, the federal government has ground to a halt; jobs are being lost; and small businesses and families face rising costs and diminished choices under the health care law, even as the president provides special exemptions from Obamacare for Big Business and powerful union bosses.
And conservative outside groups under the banner of the Conservative Action Project are right when they say "Americans know that Obamacare is a law that is hurting people. They have already seen the President's unequal application of the law, the delays, the carve-outs, the special favors, the insults to our values. They have seen the lost jobs, the reductions in hours, and less money in each paycheck because of rising premiums. They worry that they and their families will have worse health care and more uncertainty than they had before. The American people are demanding an end to this terrible law. It is time to make Washington listen."
This week, the Republican-led House sent three different proposals to the Democratic-controlled Senate that would keep the federal government running and provide fairness for all Americans under Obamacare. The final of these three proposals would give American families the same relief from Obamacare that the President has given big businesses and labor unions, while ensuring there is no special treatment for Members of Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shot down each proposal without even permitting debate, then refused a House request for a bipartisan conference between the House and Senate to resolve the differences between the two chambers.
The pettiness of the Obama Administration shutdown is embarrassing, childish and ultimately, counter-productive. They deployed federal agents to keep World War II veterans from visiting their memorial--despite the fact that this memorial is literally always open. It's an outside display, with no entrance gates, no walls, no doors. The only way to close it is to ring it with portable fences that look like bike racks — and that's what they did. In Rock Creek Park in Washington, which has several roads through it, the roads are open, but the sidewalks that parallel the roads are closed to walkers and joggers. That's pure petty vindictiveness — and if the so-called mainstream media would honestly report it, public opinion would shift, and place more blame on Obama and the Democrats.
Now is the time for Congressional leaders in both Houses and both parties to be honest with the American people. No procedural gimmicks, no tricks, no backroom deals. No stealth debt-ceiling increases or kick-the-can-down-the-road strategies. No more special deals for Congressional workers. Delay what's now obviously not working in Obamacare. Remove the Congressional subsidies. Fund the government in the short term, and move on to debate raising the debt ceiling, where further spending cuts should be made to get us out of this unsustainable borrow and spend mentality. It's worse than tax and spend. Congress must make the same kinds of cuts that American families have made during this anemic economic recovery. There's no way that this President or this Senate will embrace the kind of policies that will return us to a robust economy, but we must stand together in opposition to digging us even deeper in debt or proposing even more expansive and oppressive government programs.
Colina Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring, USA