Hold Them Responsible: Government Shutdown Lessons

US Capitol in Washington DC
US Capitol in Washington DC

I agree with many who say that October’s government shutdown was all about politics. But the Republicans and Democrats, the President and his aides, all of them, are looking at this through a very narrow lens. It should be looked at much more broadly.

The fact is that one group of reckless people, who have the majority in the House of Representatives, chose to shut our government down. They did this on a procedural matter. Let us be clear. Three years ago, the House passed legislation approving a bill to create the National Health Care Act. The Senate approved the legislation. The President signed it into law. The Supreme Court overruled challenges to it. It is not possible, or it should not be possible, after that, on a matter of funding, not a matter of substance at all, a matter of procedure, for one branch of the government to subvert what was done.

The country remains in grave danger because of this. Nothing changed. Nothing can stop it from happening again as soon as January. Why did these people do this? To ruin America? To humiliate a black President? To aid and abet our enemies? To create chaos? Who cares?

Well, some people care. They ask these people why they did this. Most answer with nonsense. They say the people don’t want what was passed. It’s in the polls. That it’s also in the polls that nobody but a handful wanted them to hold the government hostage is brushed aside. They just wanted to have a little sit-down with this President. To better address the deficit. Isn’t that true? There can be a compromise.

There cannot be a compromise. There cannot be a situation where, after one side loses, they refuse on a procedural matter to fund the government unless a law passed is withdrawn.

These are government employees. They work for us. Our President is our Commander in Chief. President Johnson called out the National Guard when the Governor of Alabama stood in the schoolhouse door to prevent the enforcement of a recently passed federal law. We know what President Reagan did when the air traffic controllers went on strike, threatening to ground all commercial aircraft if their demands were not met. He locked them out. Then, when they gave up, he did not re-hire them and tell them all is forgiven. He bounced every last one of them out.

What happened in October is not like the slap on the wrist shutdown that was called to embarrass the Clinton Administration. This was an act in which the nation, and with it the world, began for 16 days to lurch down into a financial collapse and with that destroy all faith in the American government by foreign countries.

Yes, in the end, it is Mr. Obama’s job as Chief Executive to prevent this. He needs to rise to the occasion and ask Congress for new legislation that would prevent this ever happening again. No one, not even members of Congress, should be allowed to do what these people did. And if Congress balks at passing such legislation, he should go to the courts to ask for those who perpetrated this to be held responsible.

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