The partial government shutdown is finally over — but it never should have happened.
In the long run, House Republicans may be proven correct about the potential harm posed by the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” Their mantra about curbing spending and reducing the debt has merit, and it’s shared by a sizeable number of Democrats.
But neither issue was worth shutting down the government over to make a point.
Yes, Obamacare is proving to be more costly than had been anticipated. It’s a massive undertaking that is bound to be fraught with problems and unintended consequences. But it was also approved — albeit by the narrowest of margins — by Congress and signed into law. For better or worse, we appear to be stuck with it, at least for now.
Granted, several Republican lawmakers ran for office on the promise of eradicating or at least defunding Obamacare. Many of them tried to make good on that promise, and they are to be commended for keeping their word. But after the Republican-dominated House voted 42 times to defund the health care program — and the Democrat-controlled Senate voted 42 times not to go along — GOP hardliners needed to come to grips with the fact that the numbers just weren’t there.
At some point, it becomes necessary to compromise in order to fight another day.
Sadly, in this instance, compromise didn’t come until parts of the government had been shut down for more than two weeks and the nation was dangerously close to defaulting on its debt.
And even when both sides reached a deal — though by no means a perfect one — both Texas senators and both of the Killeen-area’s Republican congressmen voted against it, even though its defeat would have meant defaulting on the debt and a longer shutdown.
The fallout from two weeks of intense political gamesmanship has been costly — and inexcusable.
One analyst estimated the shutdown had shrunk the nation’s economy by $28 billion.
About 350,000 federal workers were locked out of their jobs nationwide, with only a promise of backpay after the shutdown was resolved. And while 1,100 furloughed civilian employees at Fort Hood returned to work after just one week, it’s likely they’re still waiting for their deferred paychecks.
On Thursday, Central Texas College reported the shutdown-related suspension of the military’s tuition assistance program had impacted hundreds of service members wanting to take courses at CTC campuses worldwide — and had cost the college at least $2 million in lost revenue.
In addition to the furloughs, the shutdown had a wide-ranging effect locally; it slowed veterans services, closed lakes, delayed loan processing and reduced military services.
It’s unconscionable that Congress continued to play chicken with the lives of Americans, even as the shutdown dragged on and the debt default deadline loomed.
Make no mistake, both parties share the blame.
House Republicans were unreasonable in demanding changes to Obamacare before approving a spending bill to keep the country running. Senate Democrats are just as culpable, refusing to entertain any discussions on reasonable changes to the health care law until a budget was passed.
John Carter and Roger Williams, our local representatives in Congress, likely made some conservative constituents happy with their refusal to compromise, but in the end, they didn’t serve their districts well.
Unfortunately, the battle is not over. Congress will be facing the debt ceiling and budget issues again after first of year. We can only hope the partisan bickering and childish behavior of the past few weeks won’t be repeated.
And don’t look now, but the March congressional primary elections are just around the corner.
If the corrosive atmosphere on Capitol Hill hasn’t improved by then, it may be time to reconsider who we’re sending to Washington.
Contact Dave Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7543