Threat of gov't shutdown doesn't faze President ObamaBy Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Sep 26, 2013 - 12:09:55 PM
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - Pushed by the far right wing of the right wing Republican majority, the House of Representatives voted Sept. 20 to launch a full-scale assault on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, setting up a confrontation with the White House and congressional Democrats that risks shutting down the government at the end of September.
Voting 230 to 189, the House approved the Tea Party-dictated plan and sent it to the Democratic-controlled Senate, a plan which would fund all the federal agencies past Sept. 30, with no money however for the Affordable Care Act.
“We had a victory today for the American people, and frankly, we also had a victory for common sense,” Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said, surrounded by more than 200 cheering lawmakers at a news conference at the Capitol. “Our message to the United States Senate is real simple: The American people don’t want the government shut down and they don’t want Obamacare.”
Just one day earlier, House Republicans narrowly pushed through a bill—217 to 210—which slashes billions of dollars from the food stamp program, despite a veto threat from President Obama, who promised to fight the draconian cuts, when he addressed the Congressional Black Caucus at its annual awards banquet Sept. 21. “You look at it right now—the other day, House Republicans voted to cut $40 billion in nutritional aid for struggling families at the same time as some of the same folks who took that vote are receiving subsidies themselves. So farm subsidies for folks at the top are okay; help feeding your child is somehow not.
“Nobody who works full-time in the wealthiest nation on Earth should have to raise their children in poverty. Those are fights we need to win,” Mr. Obama insisted.
“At a time when Black unemployment remains twice as high as White unemployment, at a time when working Americans of all races have seen their incomes and wages stagnate even as corporate profits and the incomes of folks at the very top are soaring, we’ve got to pick up the torch of economic justice.”
Congressional Democrats sounded a similar tone. “It’s a sad day in the people’s House when the leadership brings to the floor one of the most heartless bills I have ever seen,” Rep. James McGovern, (D-Mass.) said of the food stamp vote. “It’s terrible policy trapped in a terrible process.”
Although unlikely to become law, the House Republican decisions may have been merely “shots across the bow” warning the president and Democrats of another upcoming vote where they have real leverage. House GOP leaders plan to adopt another measure that will demand a one-year delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in exchange for an agreement to avoid a first-ever default on the nation’s debts, when the legal U.S. debt limit is reached in mid-October.
The president promised not to yield to what he described as Republican attempts at “holding the economy hostage.” “Let me say as clearly as I can,” Mr. Obama told the CBC, “It is not going to happen. We have come too far. We’ve overcome far darker threats than those. We will not negotiate over whether or not America should keep its word and meet its obligations. We’re not going to allow anyone to inflict economic pain on millions of our own people just to make an ideological point.”
Health insurance coverage under the ACA, which has been a political goal of presidents for more than 50 years, will take affect in October, and will cost families just $100 per month, he said, which is “less than your cell phone bill,” Mr. Obama said.
“This is an interesting thing to ponder, that your top agenda is making sure 20 million people don’t have health insurance,” he continued. “And you’d be willing to shut down the government and potentially default for the first time in United States history because it bothers you so much that we’re actually going to make sure that everybody has affordable health care.
“It’s time for these folks to stop governing by crisis and start focusing on what really matters: Creating new jobs, growing our economy, expanding opportunity for ourselves, looking after our children, doing something about the violence out there. As we’ve got all of these battles we have to face, we’ve got to remember what brought us here in the first place,” Mr. Obama said to an appreciative CBC audience.
Some Republican leaders in the Senate concede that the GOP gambit—led by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (D-Texas)—is futile. Sen. John McCain (D-Ariz.), who was the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, told reporters the plan is “not rational.”
“I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said via Twitter, referring to Sen. Cruz, who studied at both schools. Mr. Cruz’s strategy is leading the party into a “box canyon” and “will fail and weaken our position,” Sen. Corker said.
When the bill comes up for debate in the Senate, because of likely GOP defections from the Tea Party-dictated House plan, there will not be enough votes to sustain a filibuster of the Democratic version of the government funding bill which will include money for the ACA most analysts predict.
“We can’t rest until every American knows the security of quality, affordable health care,” Mr. Obama told the CBC. “In just over a week, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the leadership shown by the CBC and others in Congress—so many of you fought to pass this law—thanks to your efforts, 6 in 10 uninsured Americans will finally be able to get covered for less than $100 a month.”
“And by the way, the only reason it’s 6 in 10 is because we’ve got some governors who haven’t seen the light yet. If every governor chose to join this project rather than to fight it just to score some political points, that number would be nearly eight in 10,” the president said.
One way the White House will consider its implementation of the new law successful, one senior adviser told reporters, is to register 7 million persons within the first six months to receive coverage under the ACA, and of course to keep the government operating and to not permit a default on the U.S. debt.