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October 4, 2013

Beyond the Barricades

Joe Charlebois

Tuesday morning as the barricades went up, my respect for the president went down. By direction of White House, the Office of Management and Budget ordered the open-air memorials in Washington to be cordoned off from the American people, including World War II veterans on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay tribute to their fellow soldiers, sailors and Marines.


The history of the federal government “shutdowns” go back to the very beginning of our country’s history, but it never had the overwhelming impact that the Clinton/Gingrich/Dole shutdown had in the mid-90’s. That shutdown happened in two parts. After a Continuing Resolution expired, there was a five-day period in November 1995 and then another 23 day period from December 16 to January 6, 1996, that shuttered the federal government in the longest such lapse in appropriations.


It was Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R., GA) in 1995 who led the House of Representatives in their historic budget battle with then President Bill Clinton (D) and lost. In simplest terms, the battle was over Republican promised budget cuts and the determination of the White House to not back down from the annual rate of spending increases. The president held firm and gained nearly all that he wanted from the spending bill.


Politically, the Republicans were tarnished by their attempts to limit the growth of spending. The White House was aided by a media coverage that favored their view on budgetary “constraint.” With the Republicans giving in to President Clinton, it looked as though the media was correct in placing blame for the budget dispute firmly in the camp of Republican legislators. It still does so.


Fast forward to today where Democrat leaders once again hope to hang any political blame for the shut-down over the head of Republicans. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives led by John Boehner (R., OH) have seen this fiscal year end with no Continuing Resolution to keep government operating. As a result, non-essential government workers have been furloughed and government and quasi-government controlled properties have been sealed off to the American people. This includes open-air memorials that in previous “shut-downs” remained open. Ironically there is more security protecting the barricades currently than when the government is officially open for business.


With the impending rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on October 1, the more conservative members of Congress in a final attempt to de-fund or delay the implementation of Obamacare attached language that would appropriate funds for the federal government to continue operations while not appropriating funds to fund this health-care law.


After being rebuffed by both the Senate and White House in several unsuccessful attempts to de-fund the ACA law, the Republican majority changed their strategy to postpone the implementation of the individual mandate for one year just as other portions of the bill have been delayed until 2015.


Predictably, Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D., NV), has refused to take up any of the bills that delay or alter the ACA as it currently stands. He has made no attempt at compromise or for that matter the White House. In a display of supreme arrogance, he has even refused to send representatives to a conference committee to hammer out differences in the two body’s bills as they are required to do.


In response to the Senate’s delays, an attempt has been made to keep the government open by the Republican House. The House has offered several individual bills to fund various segments of the government.  The house is looking to fund the National Park System, National Guard, National Institutes of Health, veterans’ programs as well as funding the governmental operations for the District of Columbia. Three of these separate funding bills that the House has approved and sent to the Senate are Honoring Our Promise to America’s Veterans Act, Providing Local Funding for the District of Columbia Act as well as the Open Our Nation’s Parks and Museums Act.


These pieces of legislation were broken out because both sides of the aisle agree upon their levels of funding and there is no reason to delay their implementation. The Senate should take up these bills. The president should sign them and stop playing games with the lives of government employees, veterans, school children and nature and history-loving tourists.


Will you join in our crusade?

Who will be strong and stand with me?

Beyond the barricade

Is there a world you long to see?

Then join in the fight

That will give you the right to be free!

(from Les Miserables, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer)


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