Majority rule held hostage by minority

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, September 28, 2013

Congress has a number of deadlines, but then again, everyone has them. The trick is to deal with deadlines before they loom. It’s a lesson many parents teach their children.

If you deal with things in a timely manner, deadlines merely approach and then disappear quietly, having been met. However, Congress isn’t good with getting things done in a timely manner. The Christmas decorations in the Capitol would still be up in August if it were up to Congress to take them down.

Congress has to pass some sort of spending bill to fund the government or that government will shut down when October begins. So you know what Congress will be doing at 11:30 p.m. on September 30?

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Let’s put it this way: Sept. 30 is when the current fiscal year ends. Then we find out if this turns out to be the last fiscal year … ever. You see, some extremists in Congress have declared war on the United States government.

They would rather see the mightiest nation in the world, the “home of the brave,” grind to a complete stop while the world looks on, than see uninsured Americans have health care. That’s the bottom line.

Some Republicans in Congress have convinced their leaders to not pass a bill that provides the money to run the government because they want to defund Obamacare, which is a political impossibility. The tea party members of the House are refusing to do what must be done so they can attempt what can’t be done.

If we manage to get past the Sept. 30 fiscal year deadline, then we still have to deal with raising the debt ceiling and the sequestration. And after that, another funding bill, because this one is temporary. Then another. There are a lot deadlines looming. So, for the next few weeks in D.C., it’s going to be “loom and doom.” Again.

House Speaker John Boehner could have stopped it. He could have shown some backbone and said to the 85 Republicans who are calling this shot, “No, I won’t allow this.”

But, the speaker of the House caved. The speaker is the second-most powerful person in Washington. But he let a handful of his colleagues dictate. Further, he’s pretending there’s no shutdown involved. Boehner had a choice -— he could have forged a bipartisan coalition to pass a spending package in time, but that was too distasteful.

If this isn’t a government shutdown looming, why are Republican senators like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Orrin Hatch and others saying that House Republicans have gone crazy? Why did the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sound the alarm, saying even a temporary shutdown could harm the economy? Why are tea party Republicans saying that they need the leverage? If there’s no shutdown, what’s the leverage?

Here’s Speaker Boehner’s rationalization: He’s hasn’t authorized a government shutdown, he says, because all the president has to do is agree to shut down Obamacare. Translation: “Hand over Obamacare, or I’ll have to smother the government, and then it will be your fault.”

The only thing missing from Boehner’s press conference was a bowl of water and soap for a public washing of his hands from letting the tea party crowd in Congress decide the fate of our government. Past great speakers like Sam Rayburn must be spinning in their graves.

“You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling being used to extort a President or a governing party,” Obama told business leaders.

Actually, there have been obscure attempts (known mostly to scholars) to use the debt limit as leverage by a minority. But none where the users were so foolish as to actually endanger U.S. credit, as Republicans did in 2011.

We have also seen extortion before. Prior to the Civil War (for decades), slavery advocates threatened to walk out on the United States, to literally tear the country apart, if Congress wouldn’t allow slavery to expand. It was extortion — a minority holding the existence of the government as a hostage in exchange for getting their way.

Today, using extortion is back. A minority is holding the public up at gunpoint by endangering those things the people hold most dear: the very existence of the government, our nation’s good credit, the economy itself, their jobs.

Obamacare passed. Then, Obamacare passed the test of constitutionality. Next, Republicans in the House voted 41 times to defund Obamacare in meaningless gesture. Mitch McConnell, the “father of gridlock,” used the filibuster more than 400 times to stop, not just Obamacare, but any legislation the president proposed from being voted on.

The press should call these extortion tactics for what they are: a minority seeking to always have its way because it can’t get the votes it needs, even within its own party. It’s time this stopped.

(Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News.)