AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
Tick tock, tick tock. By the time that you are reading this column, unless Congress reached a decision before the stroke of midnight on Monday, Sept. 30, the United States will be in the midst of its first limited shutdown of the federal government in 17 years.
The last federal government shutdown occurred in 1995 and 1996, and was the result of conflicts between then Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress over funding for Medicare, education, the environment, and public health in the 1996 federal budget. At that time the shutdown occurred when Clinton vetoed the budget bill sent to him by the Republican-controlled Congress. The end result was that non-essential government workers were placed on furlough and non-essential services were curtailed for a total of 28 days.
The deadlock in resolving the federal budget debate this time boils down to the funding of the Affordable Care Act, or more commonly referred to as Obamacare. The Republicans are wanting a one-year delay in funding for the individual mandates of the new law, as well as making members of Congress and the Administration be a part of the new healthcare law. The Democrats, on the other hand, want full funding of Obamacare, plus they would like to continue to have their own separate healthcare plan that is better than what the rest of America is going to be able to get.
While a lot of things in the United States have changed in the past 17 years, politics is not one of them.
Today, the political battle lines are just as firmly drawn, if not more so, as they were 17 years ago. There is an absolute stalemate in Washington, D.C. today. Neither party will concede something to the other party even if is for the good of the people of the United States. And as a result, we are witnessing our democratic form of government unraveling.
Laws are not being passed and appointments to government offices aren’t being confirmed because of the unwillingness of members of the two political parties and the President of the United States to sit down and reach a compromise. While most Americans can tolerate Washington lawmakers’ inability to compromise on political appointments and making new laws, it defies logic that important matters such as passing a federal budget or setting the government’s debt ceiling limit, cannot be resolved without going down to the last minute.
What both parties in Washington, D.C. seem to have forgotten is that by virtue, politics is a game of give and take. Unless one political party controls both sides of Congress, as well as the White House, they are going to have to be willing to compromise.
And when our elected leaders decide that they cannot, or will not, be open to compromise, some very bad things will happen. Things like shutting down government services and laying off workers. And when that happens, no matter how each political party tries to paint the other party as being to blame, the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of both parties, as well as the President of the United States.