Funding standoff

With unrelenting monomania bordering on obsession, the conservative wing of the House Republican caucus is actively embroiling Congress in a showdown over funding. Specifically, the focus is on the Affordable Care Act and a continuing resolution to be voted on today in the U.S. House of Representatives that would provide the funds to keep the government operating after Sept. 30 – with the glaring provision that Obamacare be defunded in the offing. It is outrageous nonsense that demonstrates, once again, that too many Republican representatives care a lot more about what their ultra-conservative base thinks of them than they do about doing their jobs, let alone making responsible governance decisions.

The measure is expected to pass the House today and will be sent to the Senate, where it faces less likely prospects. That has prompted House lawmakers to throw down a series of gauntlets challenging their Senate counterparts to support the defunding proposal, accusing them of failing to take meaningful action to rid the nation of the impending Affordable Care Act. Caught in the fray is House Speaker John Boehner, who was not looking for this fight – this time – and now must balance the various positions of his caucus while also moving an actual piece of legislation – whatever the Senate approves – through the House and then surviving as its leader.

Naturally, his approach for now is to put pressure on the Senate: “We’ll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow and then this fight will move over to the Senate, where it belongs,” Boehner said Thursday in a news conference. “I expect my Senate colleagues to be up for the battle.” This is not easy business, nor is it particularly helpful in solving the larger and more meaningful problem: keeping the government running beyond the end of the month.

For his part, President Barack Obama has promised to veto any continuing resolution that strips funding from the Affordable Care Act, and he is right to do so. Despite accusations from his political rivals that Obama is more willing to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin than with congressional Republicans, Obama seems to realize that this is not a matter of negotiation at all. It is political haymaking, plain and simple, but not even the good kind. Obama, in an Organizing for Action video, raised a very good question that lawmakers should be asking themselves: “Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points? I hope not.”

What is being lost in the process is the very real need to address government funding. A shutdown is not an option, and while a short-term continuing resolution is hardly ideal, holding that funding hostage to an effort to paralyze Obamacare is irresponsible. The president, rightly, will not play.

“The administration is willing to support a short-term continuing resolution to allow critical government functions to operate without interruption and looks forward to working with the Congress on appropriations legislation for the remainder of the fiscal year that preserves critical national priorities, protects national security and makes investments to spur economic growth and job creation for years to come,” a White House statement said. That is the correct message – in stark contrast to that being sent by too many House Republicans.

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