Government shutdown looms over 'Obamacare'By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Oct 1, 2013 - 1:19:09 AM
The result: large sections of the government have been shuttered, hundreds of thousands of workers have been furloughed without pay, and millions more are being asked to work for no pay.
At the heart of the dispute is an attempt by conservative, Tea Party-aligned Republicans to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act—which they call “Obamacare”—by removing funding for the new measure from any government spending bill. In this case, however, the normal channels for resolving such budget disputes have been disrupted along unprecedented fault lines. Democrats on one side, and Republicans split into two warring camps. In a rare Sunday session, the House voted 231-192 Sept. 29 with the help of two Democrats, to delay the ACA.
A shutdown would prompt federal agencies to suspend a large range of activities and furlough at least 825,000 of the U.S. government’s more than 2 million workers, according to plans fi led with the White House. However, much of the public would be unaffected, as services deemed essential would continue, among them those related to national security, mail delivery, air traffic and law enforcement.
But the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate refused to postpone implementation of the bill, which was approved by both House and Senate and signed into law in 2010, and tested in the courts all the way to the Supreme Court which upheld the measure as the law of the land. Further, they insist the president was reelected in 2012 campaigning on that law as his signature achievement. Elections should have consequences, Democrats insist.
Mr. Boehner could risk the ire of those more conservative members of his caucus and put the Senate bill on the floor for a straight up or down vote which would certainly attract enough Democrats to pass it, and that is a route that his more moderate members have begun urging him to take. Ironically, the House has voted 43 times already in this session to repeal the Affordable Care Act, legislation which never even got a hearing in the Senate, and which would never have been signed by the president.
However, that route would pose a certain political risk to Mr. Boehner, whose standing as speaker rests on retaining support from a conservative wing of his party that often has clamored for him to be more combative in fighting Mr. Obama’s policies.
Polls show that the public is already deeply unhappy with its leaders in Congress, but there is a false equivalency caused by news media interpretations of the warring sides by trying to lay blame for the impasse on Democrats as well as on Republicans.
“So far, the Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to move forward. And here’s the thing—unlike the last time they threatened this course of action, this debate isn’t really about deficits,” President Obama told reporters Sept. 27.
“Instead, the House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the Tea Party that they’ve threatened a government shutdown or worse unless I gut or repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Mr. Obama continued.
“On Tuesday (Oct. 1), about 40 million more Americans will be able to finally buy quality, affordable health care, just like anybody else. Those marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday no matter what—even if there’s a government shutdown.”
One Republican, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) conceded that he was actively courting Republicans and Democrats to get behind a temporary spending bill to avert a shutdown, even if it contained none of the additional measures the House passed eliminating the ACA.
Without saying so out loud, there is a sinister component to the opposition to the health law that speaks directly to President Obama’s identity. Opposition to the law is higher when it’s called “Obamacare” than when it’s referred to as the “Affordable Care Act,” according to findings in a CNBC poll. Those findings follow an earlier Fox News poll that showed something similar: even Republicans like the law more when it’s called the Affordable Care Act than when it’s referred to as Obamacare. In a speech, the president predicted that Republicans will eventually stop using the term. Meanwhile, a GOP official in Arizona mocked the president in a Facebook post, saying Mr. Obama was “shucking and jiving” on Obamacare. Bruce Ash, Republican National Committeeman from Arizona, linked to this BuzzFeed post with the following comment: “Some people wonder why I cannot figure out why I believe Obama is shucking and jiving on Obamacare.”
The simplest path to avoiding a shutdown would be for the House to immediately pass the Senate funding bill and send it to the White House. Most observers predict that there would be enough votes to pass such a bill, if brought up by Speaker Boehner, with Democrats joined by some Republicans willing to postpone the health care fight in the interest of ending the showdown.
The president and other Democrats warned that agreeing to the GOP demands now would invite Republicans to press for more in the future, with each fiscal deadline. Next up is a battle over terms for raising the nation’s borrowing limit, which the Treasury says must be approved by mid-October. Most economists predict that the financial consequences of failing to raise the debt limit would be even greater than those caused by the government shutdown.
Tea Party Republicans however, may in fact be using defunding the ACA as a ruse to bring about their real, ultimate aim, which is to undue the federal government entirely, save for military spending.
“I think they believe the government is unnecessary,” Dr. William Spriggs, professor of economics at Howard University told The Final Call, “and this is the extreme version of their disregard for the public, that they are willing to let it shutdown because of that belief. I don’t think they care whether the government operates or not.”
Case in point, the chief Senate architect of the “defund Obamacare” strategy is Sen. Ted Cruz (D-Texas), who led a 21-hour talkfest urging his colleagues to go along with the House-passed legislation. But Mr. Cruz’s own state, in addition to having the highest rate of people without health insurance in the nation, also has the largest number of children without health insurance and the highest rate of poor adults without health insurance, according to 2012 American Community Survey estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau and reported by The Texas Tribune.
More than 852,000 Texas children lacked health insurance in 2012, according to the ACS estimates, which are taken from a random sampling of households throughout the year. Texas also had the highest rate of adults making below 138 percent of the federal poverty threshold—lower than $15,415 for an individual or $26,344 for a family of three—who lack insurance, at 55 percent. Those people would have qualified for Medicaid coverage if the state had chosen to expand eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act.
During a Nov. 8, 2012 interview, the House speaker said he would stop trying to repeal the ACA because the “(2012) election changes that. It’s pretty clear that the President was reelected. Obamacare is the law of the land,” Mr. Boehner said at that time.
Threat of gov't shutdown doesn't faze President Obama (FCN, 09-26-2013)