Kamikaze Congress


By CHARLES M. BLOW

New York Times News Service

Delay and defund. And default.

That is the House Republicans’ brilliant plan in their last-ditch effort to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It is a plan that threatens to grind the government to a halt and wreak havoc on the economy.

If they can’t take over Washington, they’ll shut it down. It’s their way or no way. All or nothing. This is what has become of a party hijacked by zealots.

It would be tempting to blame all Republicans for this absurdity, but that would be unfair. There are still Republicans who are interested in good governance, but they’re being dragged to the nether regions of nonsensical policymaking by younger, more ideological members of Congress, many from safely gerrymandered districts that form virtual echo chambers of irrationality.

The old guard has warned against the recklessness of the tactics of far-right House Republicans.

John McCain told CNN on Thursday: “In the United States Senate, we will not repeal, or defund, Obamacare. We will not. And to think we can is not rational.”

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said of the House Republicans’ strategy of threatening a government shutdown to force the defunding of Obamacare, “I think it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, has said: “There isn’t anybody that thinks that Obamacare is going to get defunded. It cannot happen.” He added, “It is as impossible as anything can possibly be in Washington, D.C.”

Even Karl Rove struck a rational tone in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published online Wednesday evening, saying:

“Any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively. The defunding strategy doesn’t. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it.”

But all those pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears, or at least defiant ones.

On Friday, House Republicans (and two Democrats) passed a spending resolution that would cut all funding for the health care law. This bill has no chance of passing in the Senate, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to gum up the works and to force vulnerable Democrats in heavily red states to go on record as refusing to defund the health care law.

These Republicans aren’t afraid the law will fail as much as they’re afraid that it will succeed and become part of the fabric of the collective conscience — and worst yet, be a clear legacy victory for President Barack Obama.

There is no more bitter Tea Party loss than a perceived Obama victory. The president is the focal point of the party’s frustrations. Tea Party representatives have been sent to Washington with a singular mission: obstruct Obama.

These kamikaze members of Congress have made the House of Representative a house of horrors, where smart thinking is smothered, where rabble demand respect.

These are members of Congress from districts where the distrust of the federal government and the distaste for this president are blinding.

Some of them twist poll results to buttress their bitterness. They point to polls showing that most Americans opposed the law as fuel for their fight. What they neglect to reveal is that a sizable portion of those who opposed the law do so because they don’t think it goes far enough, not because it goes too far. A May CNN/ORC poll found that 43 percent of Americans favored the law while 54 percent opposed it. But it also found that of those polled, 16 percent opposed the law because they thought that it wasn’t liberal enough. Put another way, 59 percent of Americans support the law or want it to be more liberal.

Furthermore, a poll released this week by the Pew Research Center found that of the 53 percent of Americans who said they disapproved of the law, the percentage who want elected officials who oppose the law to try to make it work as well as possible was larger than the percentage who wanted them to try to make it fail.

The American people are not on the far right’s side in battle. House Republicans are on a quixotic mission.

Sometimes in a fight, you just have to know when your opponent has gotten the better of you, limp home and live to fight another day. But the House Republicans prefer a twisted, last-stand view: face sure defeat in a blaze of glory and be remembered for standing up for what you believe in.

If only their stance were honorable. There is no glory in this. This is petty and small. This is vindictive and vainglorious. This is what the end of seriousness looks like.

 

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