My View: The ABCs of minority rule
October 11, 2013
Is defunding or delaying the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, worth shutting down the government?
The health insurance marketplace exchanges opened Oct. 1, giving consumers a hands-on chance to separate fact from GOP fear-hyping fiction. Many consumers liked what they saw. In the first three days of a six-month enrollment period, 10,000 opened accounts to get insurance with the Colorado-administered exchanges.
A minority group of around 40 Tea Party House members were able to engineer the shutdown. How did they pull it off and can they do it again? Thanks to the Hastert rule and gerrymandering they did, can and are. They are adding to their surrender terms by refusing to increase the debt limit. Failure to raise the debit limit threatens to undermine our nation's economy by leading to default on payments for bills already obligated and due.
The 250 furloughed BLM , National Park Service, federal conservation and U.S. Forest Service employees are only some of the victims in Grand County. Their families lost buying power. Businesses had also hoped the last days of the tourist season, fall colors and elk rut viewing, would bring in some money but the tourist season's end is already upon us.
If the entire House of Representatives had been allowed to vote, a resolution to reopen and fund the government without defunding the ACA would have passed right away. However, as a minority group in the GOP caucus, the Tea Party was determined to use the strategy of linking federal defunding to delaying the ACA. This kept any "clean" bill, one without reference to the ACA, from being voted upon by the entire House. How far they will go on the debt limit threat is yet to be seen.
One culprit allowing this to happen is a rule of the GOP caucus in the House of Representatives, the Hastert Rule. Unless the majority of the House GOP caucus agrees, a bill will not come up for a vote of a whole House. This rule keeps a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats from joining together to vote for a bill a faction of the GOP opposes. GOP Speaker John Boehner chose to invoke the Hastert Rule, some observers charge, because if he did not, the Tea Party would keep him from being re-elected as Speaker.
Another culprit is the recent redistricting process, enabling state legislatures dominated by the GOP to gerrymander Congressional district boundaries to make more districts overwhelmingly Republican in a general election. These "safe" districts mean that any member of the GOP running for Congress who does not follow the Tea Party's line could face a challenge from them in a primary battle. The implied or real threat was enough to give the Tea Party additional votes of House members who may not have been in 100 percent agreement with a shutdown, making the Tea Party the majority in the House GOP caucus.
Knowing in advance that the Senate Democrats and the President would stop or veto any bill that defunded, delayed or sabotaged the ACA, the House GOP controlled by the Tea Party continued sending bills to the Senate with those poison pills and the threat to shutdown the government. Failing to bully the President to ditch the ACA, his signature piece of legislation, they then tried to divide their opposition by offering to fund a few popular programs, including reopening national parks, while excluding other federal agencies, including some in Grand County. To open the government for all services and agencies, a vote by the entire House is all that is needed.
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