Republicans in the U.S. House showed Tuesday how they can be their own worst enemy. While the Senate worked toward a plan to end the government shutdown, House Republicans apparently could not agree among themselves on what plan to counter with. Though House leaders put forward the deal to get the government running and raise the debt ceiling, rank-and-file members couldn’t accept it.
A few hours later the House Republican leaders presented another, amended plan and planned to bring it to a vote Tuesday evening. That vote didn’t happen. The only hope so far has come from a bipartisan deal presented by the Senate on Wednesday. Finally, House Speaker John Boehner bowed to reason and said the House would not block it. A vote was expected later Wednesday night.
If House members couldn’t accept a plan presented by the leaders of their own party, what would they prefer, realistically? Perfection, in their eyes, is not possible, as any deal requires the Democratic Senate’s approval and President Barack Obama’s signature. The Senate, showing itself to be the more responsible sibling, is willing to bend a little to get the government operating before Thursday, when the Treasury Department will lose its authority to borrow.
But it won’t, and shouldn’t, bend to madness. The extremists in the House GOP lost long before Wednesday. A mere 28 percent of Americans view the Republican Party favorably, according to Gallup. It’s the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since the company began asking the question in 1992.
There’s no way for the extremists in the party to “win” the irresponsible mess they’ve created. A shutdown is not something to brag about. Possibly defaulting on the country’s debt is not winning. Asking for a law to be defunded — when it was already funded — in order to pass a budget is a catastrophe. What was the plan after they demanded and failed to receive the impossible? Was it really to give the Affordable Care Act papercuts?
Right now the Senate deal is a far cry from what House Republicans wanted to begin with. If it passes, the American public will feel some relief but also exasperation. The country endured a shutdown and harmed its economy for this?
The most recent failed plan from House Republicans involved getting rid of health insurance premium assistance for Congress, some executive branch officials, and some of their staff — a component of the Affordable Care Act that Boehner actually fought to protect. Why they wanted to exempt underappreciated staff isn’t clear. Nearly all other large employers in the U.S. offer their employees health care coverage. It doesn’t make sense to prohibit only one employer from doing so to simply score political points.
Now the only proposed change to the law, developed in the Senate, is to tighten income verification rules for people applying for health insurance on the new exchanges. The GOP should accept this carrot.
The only way for Republicans to really get what they want — to eliminate Obamacare — is to actually win seats. That is, to keep the House and take over the Senate and the White House. And the odds of that happening decrease the longer the shutdown mess they created continues. If there’s anything to learn from the shutdown, it’s that the long view matters. You don’t succeed by pointing a gun — in this case, unloaded — at someone and mandating changes. No one should want to see the Republican Party win that way, anyway.