A lesson not learned
The 16-day government shutdown came an anti-climatic end last Wednesday when House Republicans conceded their inevitable defeat and gave up on attempts to defund Obamacare. The lackluster finish averted financial default and raised the debt ceiling so the government could keep paying its bills.
The budget solution, which passed first by a large margin in the Senate and later in the House, funded the government through Jan. 15 and raised the debt limit through Feb. 7. Though we can breath easy now, Americans shouldn't get too cozy. It would appear we're headed towards yet another showdown just a few weeks after we ring in the New Year.
Finger pointing and sidestepping blame has become the standard procedure in Washington D.C. following disasters like the shutdown. No one wants belly up and take credit for failing to do the job they were elected to do. However, it's hard to look past the GOP's persistent inter-party squabbling as the source for all of this wheel spinning in our nation's capitol.
Numerous news outlets highlighted the turmoil among House Republicans during the budget battle, and it seems there were two fights going on at the same time. Republicans wrestled with the Democrats over the budget, while far-rightwing conservatives duked it out against moderates within their own party about just how deep they wanted to cut. As made obvious by Wednesday's events, all of it was moot.
It seems pointless to gripe about continued stalemate in Washington. There appears to be very little leadership within the Republican Party, and that's been made obvious by the lack of cohesive direction during the budget battles these last couple of years. Negotiating effective policy is impossible when neither side wants to pull up a chair to the table, and that's even more difficult when one side can't even decide on what it wants to pursue.
President Barack Obama pointed out after the shutdown ended that Congress has fallen in to a habit of governing by crisis. That observation is certainly true, as numerous deadlines on financial measures, bills and other issues have flown past with no solution in sight. We saw it with the sequester and we've seen it with many other things like the farm bill and immigration reform. Finding a middle ground has proven to be as difficult as landing a man on Mars.
The unwavering political strife in Congress has made the next few months all the more troubling. It's obvious "governing" by shutdown was a failure for House Republicans, as they gained next to nothing from the 16-day lockout. However, many GOP legislators were quoted as saying they planned to continue where they left off when the winter budget and debt ceiling battles heat up again. This tactic would once again take the United States backwards by stalling constructive progress on extremely pertinent budget issues that promise to continue into the foreseeable future.
It's ludicrous to think Democrats and Republicans will ever see eye-to-eye on every issue – that's just not how things work. However, it'd be nice if the GOP would convalesce around more centralized goals instead of bickering amongst themselves about which direction they'd like to take. The shutdown created economic turmoil and threatened to affect international markets if the debt ceiling wasn't raised. Republican legislators should take note the political desires of a few aren't worth creating widespread trouble for many.
It's obvious our nation's spending habits need to be cut back and our budget trimmed, but the GOP should take a logical approach when heading into future showdowns. After all, it took us a while to get into this financial hole and it will take us while to get out. Presenting less confrontational and aggressive proposals to the Democrat-held Senate will create a better potential for success than the slash-and-gash attempts of recent memory. The shutdown failed, and learning from this extremely reckless style of governing is key if Republicans want to achieve their goals down the road.
Nick Pedley is the regional news editor of the Hampton Chronicle, The Sheffield Press and Pioneer Enterprise.