Republicans' Flagellation: Boehner, Cruz, And Tea Party Republicans Pushed U.S. To The Brink In Return For "Nothing"!

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Rep. John Boehner

[State On The Union]

By a vote of 285 to 144 in the House and an 82-18 vote in the Senate – Congress finally ended the 16-day U.S. government shutdown.

Our elected leaders very narrowly avoided the first time in this nation’s history in which we defaulted on debt we have already incurred. So as the dust settles and the aftermath begins, what have we learned from all of this? The object lesson here is that this is what happens when a misguided few play chicken while real thinkers play chess.

Three weeks ago, I included in my column the ransom note the Republican Party issued to President Obama in order to avert the government shutdown and secure a hike to the debt ceiling. In case you missed it, here’s that long list of demands: A one year delay in implementing (destroying) Obamacare. Tax reform legislation taken directly from the Paul Ryan budget. Republican flavored energy and regulatory reforms. The Keystone Pipeline. Coal ash regulations. On and offshore drilling. Energy production on federal lands. EPA carbon regulations. Regulatory process reform. The REINS Act. Consent decree reform. The blocking of net neutrality. Mandatory spending reforms taken from the sequester replacement bills the GOP passed last year. Federal employee retirement reform. The death of the Dodd-Frank bailout fund. Transitioning CFPB funding to appropriations. Child Tax Credit reform to prevent fraud. The repeal of the Social Services block grant. Health spending reforms. Means testing of Medicare. Tort reform. Altering disproportion share hospitals. The repeal of the public health trust fund.

Republican Congressmen and Senators emphatically stated over and over again that if they didn’t get every one of these wish-list items from President Obama, they would shut the government down and steadfastly refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Would you like to guess which of these things they got in concessions? None of them. Nada, zilch, zip.

So what was this all for? Why couldn’t we have gotten a clean continuing resolution three weeks ago; thereby bypassing this whole nightmare entirely? The answer is simple. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took America's economy and the global economy to the brink of a worldwide financial tsunami just to appease his base - the Tea Party faithful. More chicken, Mr. Boehner?

What was the cost of this avoidable, regrettable situation – accurately described by Senator John McCain (R-TX) as “an agonizing odyssey” and “a shameful chapter”? The government shutdown cost American taxpayers $160 million a day for 16 days. That’s a real cost of $2.56 billion. Well over 800,000 federal workers were furloughed. Parks and monuments nationwide were closed. The American economy took a direct hit of $24 billion. American consumer confidence was eroded.

We lost 0.6 percent off the annualized 4th quarter rate of growth. The American stock markets fluctuated as the shutdown continued and the prospect of default drew closer. Of course, the political fallout was both swift and predictable. The current approval rating for Congress is 5 percent; an all-time low. The GOP’s current approval is 24 percent; also an all-time low. The Tea Party’s current approval rate is 21 percent; yes, yet another all-time low. What do you get for playing chicken with America’s ability to borrow? Willie Wonka said it best in ‘Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory’: “You lose! You get nothing. Good day, sir.”

Meanwhile, President Obama – having learned his lesson during the debt ceiling pseudo-crisis of July 2011 – stood firm. Through the entirety of 2013, he said repeatedly he would not negotiate again on making sure America’s debts were paid as usual. He was wise enough to get out of the way as the various factions of the Republican Party fought their own internal Civil War publicly. Chess is a thinking person’s exercise. Chess requires tactical skill, strategy, and patience. The President possesses those attributes. So do Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). While I believe that John Boehner has these traits, his allegiance to his base effectively prevents him from ever demonstrating them.

Mr. Boehner said in a Cincinnati radio interview Wednesday: “We fought the good fight, we just didn't win.” Ted Cruz lauded House Republicans for their “profile in courage” even as he threw Senate Republicans under the bus. Give that man a drumstick.

The President announced today that his next move is to push hard for immigration reform legislation; a development which will further divide an already fractured Republican Party. If the GOP opposes him, he wins. If they work with him, America wins. Either way, it’s checkmate.

Sometimes when you play chicken, you experience a very unfortunate outcome. Playing chicken can conceivably get you marinated, seasoned, and grilled at somebody's tailgate before the big game. If given the choice between chess and chicken, I'll take chess every single time.



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