As of this writing, the shutdown of the government has entered its second week and the rhetoric has intensified.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blames the impasse on what he calls the “Tea Party anarchists.” Right on cue, stories in the press about a recent Gallup poll show “tea party support is near an all-time low.” However, a closer look at the numbers reveals some interesting nuances missed by most reporters.
According to that poll, the category called “tea party supporters” is indeed hovering at 22 percent, one percentage point higher than the low recorded in 2011. However, it also shows that opposition to the tea party is also on the decline, coming in at 27 percent, five points lower than its peak in 2010. Furthermore, in another recent Gallup poll, only 19 percent of Americans identify themselves as liberals, down a point from last year. In other words, there are more “tea party supporters” than there are liberals. Conservatives comprised the largest group at 41 percent, with moderates at 37 percent.
So, while the government is in shutdown mode and Sen. Reid is calling people names, President Obama has stated categorically that he will not negotiate over raising the debt limit. Their intransigence is what caused the shutdown.
In an ironic twist, on Monday the zerohedge.com website posted a document from the Congressional Record dated March 16, 2006, signed by then Sen. Barack Obama regarding “increasing the statutory limit on the public debt” where he wrote the following: “Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.” This is a flip-flop of epic proportions.
However, the debt ceiling isn’t even the focal point of the battle. Leave it to columnist Thomas Sowell to interject some clarity and common sense into the chaos. In an article entitled “Who Shut Down the Government?” that I found on the Jewish World Review website he states: “There is really nothing complicated about the facts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities going — except for Obamacare. This is not a matter of opinion. You can check the Congressional Record. As for the House of Representatives’ right to grant or withhold money, that is not a matter of opinion either. You can check the Constitution of the United States. All spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives.”
Meanwhile, the implementation of Obamacare has been a disaster. Beside the widespread reports of system failure here in West Virginia, only one insurance provider signed up for the exchange. It is therefore not an exchange; it is rather a state-sanctioned monopoly.
These issues aside, the ramifications of Sowell’s statement cannot be overstated. As he rightly asserts, the House is the only legislative body that retains the power of the purse, not the Senate (as per the Origination Clause in the Constitution). This point is addressed by Andrew McCarthy in his article last Saturday posted on the National Review Online. McCarthy contends that since the constitutionality of Obamacare was upheld based on the power to tax, this poses yet another constitutional problem. Obamacare originated in the Senate; only the House can originate spending and taxing bills! So it may very well be headed back to the Supreme Court on those grounds.
If that weren’t enough, former television commentator Ben Swann (who resigned from his news feature Reality Check to start Truth in Media) points out yet another potential fatal flaw in the bill. Under the law, states can choose to set up an exchange or not. Those that chose to set up an exchange can fine employers who do not provide health care and return that money to employees to purchase insurance through the exchange. However, more than half of the states have opted out of setting up an exchange, forcing the federal government to do it. According to Swann, the president and Democratic leadership failed to add this same penalty to the bill for states that opt out. He says, “this would have left Obamacare in shambles.”
Swann goes on to say that as a result, Obama went to the IRS (the same organization that has admitted to applying tax law in a politically biased manner and is charged with enforcing the terms of Obamacare) and had them rewrite the law, bypassing Congress. Wow. The state of Oklahoma, believing this to be unconstitutional, has initiated a lawsuit that appears to be headed to the Supreme Court.
So, President Obama and his allies in the Senate have shut down the government over Obamacare. The president is expending all of his political capital (his disapproval ratings are up precipitously) and has apparently compromised his principles over the debt ceiling in an attempt to save a bill that most of the nation disapproves of, has been rejected by a majority of the states and may yet prove to be unconstitutional after all.
We wouldn’t be in this mess if there had been good faith negotiations within the framework of the Constitution and the confines of the law.
— Elliot Simon writes from Harpers Ferry