Columns / Discourse / October 9, 2013

Debating Columnists: Politicians acting as hostage takers

The U.S. government has shut down all non-essential functions and personnel due to fear of the Republican Party leadership. Rather than work to advance their causes through the traditional means of compromise, Republicans in the house — coerced by the Tea Party faction — have chosen close the government’s doors until they get what they want.

Perhaps the most humorous part of this shutdown is the Republican leadership’s insistence that fault lies with Senate Democrats and President Obama.

On Aug. 21, Speaker John Boehner circulated a memo Ñ that was then signed by 80 Republicans Ñ stating that there was a great need to defund Obamacare, and more importantly that the best way to do so would be through the appropriations bill. Recognizing that the government would again need a continuing resolution (or CR) to keep the government funded, the Republicans saw a chance to defund or otherwise injure Obamacare despite not having the votes in Senate to do so. This action effectively took the government of the United States hostage, with the House of Representatives willing to send the government into a shutdown if Obamacare continued.

Even with these polarising political times, it seems odd that the Republican Leadership would be willing to risk an economic collapse to stop a law that has already been approved in both houses of congress, signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court. The hardline tactic of shutting down the government — if no concessions occur — seems especially dangerous for conservatives who are against such popular social measures as gay marriage and gun control given that the Senate Democrats could easily turn around demanding a change in the national law. The only reason Boehner would risk such a ridiculous game of Russian roulette is his fear of the Tea Party.

As I mentioned in last week’s article, the Tea Party started taking out ads against Republicans last month who, in their opinion, were not being tough enough on Obamacare.

What many fail to grasp is the magnitude and significance of these ads and their general attitude. In publically going against their own side of the aisle, the Tea Party demonstrated that the 2014 elections could contain many Tea Party challenges to Republican seats, including the speakership.

With the an intensification of more accurate ways to go about redistricting to ensure political control of certain areas, the threat of candidates farther to the right than the Republicans (which could result in “safe” Republican districts being won over by Democrats) was simply too great. Boehner chose to put the entire country (and global market) at risk, rather than lose his speakership.

The shutdown disrupted the jobs of 800,000 federal employees (with well over 400,000 government employees still unable to work) and resulted in the closure of everything from national parks to some of the federal food programs for women and children.

Meanwhile, the expected hit on the stock market could be right around the corner. While some  have felt the effect of the shutdown more than others, it is ludicrous to suggest that its effects are minor. As much as the Republican leadership would like to make the shutdown an issue of the Democrats being unwilling to compromise, anyone who takes an objective look at the situation will see that taking the government hostage only serves those directly behind its capture: Speaker John Boehner and his loyal Republican followers.

Tags:  Affordable Care Act appropriations bill government shutdown John Boehner obamacare senate speaker Tea Party

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Payton Rose
Senior Payton Rose is a political science major with minors in creative writing and Spanish. This is his first year working for The Knox Student as discourse editor. He has written a political column for TKS for two years.

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