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Ear to the Ground

House All but Seals Fate for Government Shutdown Tuesday

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Posted on Sep 29, 2013
Ron Cogswell (CC BY 2.0)

As the federal government careens toward a likely shutdown after midnight Monday, a couple of aspects of the power play by the tea party-powered House Republicans stand out: their delusions over what the American public wants, and their fixation on birth control.

First, while you were sleeping, the House voted early Sunday to send to the Senate a bill that would delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act for a year in return for, in effect, living up to its responsibility to set a budget for the coming year. Senate Democrats—and some Republicans—reject the House version, and even if they approved, President Obama says he would veto it. A separate measure would keep paychecks flowing to active-duty military personnel, a signal that the House Republicans expect the government to shut down.

It’s a somber thing, voting to toy with the U.S. economy over a petty and vindictive political fight, though the House Republicans didn’t seem to see it that way, according to The New York Times:

The mood in the Capitol on Saturday, at least among Republicans, was downright giddy. When Republican leaders presented their plan in a closed-door meeting on Saturday, cheers and chants of “Vote, vote, vote!” went up. As members left the meeting, many wore beaming grins.

Representative John Culberson of Texas said that as he and his colleagues were clamoring for a vote, he shouted out his own encouragement. “I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!’ “ That the Senate would almost certainly reject the health care delay, he added, was not a concern. “Ulysses S. Grant used to say, ‘Boys, quit worrying about what Bobby Lee is doing. I want to know what we are doing.’ And that’s what the House is doing today, thank God.”

Their exuberance could have had something to do with booze, according to Politico reporter Ginger Gibson (an observation shared by other reporters, as well), who Tweeted:

The Republicans claim they are pushing the issue because it is what the American public wants them to do. Yet a New York Times/CBS News poll last week found an overwhelming level of opposition to politicians using such extortionate strategies in the budget process.

Eight in 10 Americans find it unacceptable for either President Obama or members of Congress to threaten to shut down the government during budget negotiations in order to achieve their goals, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Fewer than 1 in 5 think the stalemate between Mr. Obama and the Republicans in Congress is acceptable.

Republicans, Democrats, independents and Tea Party supporters alike object to the threat of a shutdown, the poll says.

“What they’re doing has so many repercussions, and I just don’t think that they should hold the budget over everyone’s head the way they are,” Barbra Torres, a retired health care administrator living in Cape Coral, Fla., said in a follow-up interview.

“It makes me so angry that these folks can’t come up with anything to compromise on or agree with,” said Ms. Torres, who described herself as an independent. “We elected them to office to pass laws and get things done.”

Democrats, of course, blame the Republicans, and the Republicans blame the Democrats, according to the poll. Bizarrely, independents were split evenly over who was at fault for the looming crisis, even though “three-quarters of independents say that Republicans in Congress are not making any attempt to find common ground with the president.”

And while they were at it, the Republicans added a measure to the budget bill that would allow employers or health plans to drop contraception coverage from health plans, according to CNN:

The so-called “conscience clause” would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women which they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. That prominently includes birth control, which most insurers are required to provide for free under current Obamacare rules.

With this move, House Republican leaders would give any employer or group health plan the ability to opt out of contraception coverage for the next year. That time frame syncs up with the larger measure in which this is included: a one-year delay of Obamacare provisions not yet in effect. … Democrats say the measure is unnecessary because the administration has granted exemptions to contraceptive coverage to religious nonprofit institutions. But advocates, such as (Kansas Republican Rep. Tim) Huelskamp, insist that all institutions should be able to opt out of any preventative coverage for women that they find objectionable.

—Posted by Scott Martelle.

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