Government Shutdown – Day 2: Last night, we voted on three bills on the floor of the House. Each allowed one aspect of the shut down government to reopen until December 15th. The first one allowed the processing of veterans’ health claims. The money for these claims is entitlement spending and is not affected by the shutdown. But, the processing and paying of these claims stopped because of the shutdown and this bill fixed that. The second bill allowed locally derived revenues in the city of Washington, DC (revenue from things like parking meters and local taxes), which have nothing to do with the federal government, to be distributed to the city so it can continue normal operations with normal revenue. By the way, this is a quirk in the law specific only to the “federal city”. Thirdly, it would fund the U.S. Park Service in order to reopen the national parks.
All 3 of these bills were brought up under an expedited process in the House called “suspension of the rules”. This process enables quick action, but it requires a 2/3rds vote of the House to pass a bill. That means it is within the power of the minority party to kill a bill. And last night, at Nancy Pelosi’s behest, the Democrats killed all three bills. The Republican vote was unanimous on one bill and nearly so in favor of all three. But, Democrats split with more than enough “no” votes to kill them all.
Nancy Pelosi said last night that she would not fund one part of the government without funding it all. The president said the same thing and threatened a veto. Harry Reid agreed and said he would not bring any of the bills up for a vote (probably because they would all pass in the Senate).
But, the Democratic argument has a problem. All Democrats, in the House and Senate, have already voted to fund a part of the government without funding it all. Last Saturday night, we unanimously passed a bill in the House that funded all active-duty military and related civilian employees and defense contractors. On Monday, the Senate also passed that bill unanimously. Before midnight on Monday, the president signed it. So, every single Democrat has already voted to fund part of the government that they felt should not be affected by the shutdown. But last night, they chose to not add veterans to that list.
What’s going on here is that Republicans in the House are trying to reduce the most onerous, but easily remedied impacts of the shutdown so we can at some point negotiate a deal to end this shutdown. The president is leading the Democrats in the opposite direction. They are clearly trying to inflict as much pain as possible. Did you see that President Obama and Secretary of Defense Hagel have cancelled the Air Force-Navy game this Saturday and are threatening to cancel more football games and other sporting events at the Army, Navy and Air Force Academies? This is a totally needless decision in a part of the government that is already funded (military) intended to create unnecessary, but noticeable discomfort. Right here in Washington, if you want to visit my office, the building is open and you can come in almost as normal. But on the Senate side, they have closed the building entirely and there is no access. Remember that under the Sequester, you can still visit the U.S. Capitol as normal, but the president continues to keep the White House closed so that only his campaign contributors have access and 8th grade schoolchildren do not.
Notice, however, that the funding of ObamaCare is unabated. The president is touting how well it is going, although we all know that it’s not and the problems are being widely reported. The point is that you can’t go see your Senator, you can’t go to a national park, veterans cannot get their benefits and you can’t go to the White House…but, somehow, ObamaCare is fully-funded and “operational” and the president is still planning, Saturday, to take an international trip??? Can you see the steam coming out of my ears as I sit before this keyboard?
So later today, I expect that we will take up these same bills under regular order, which means that they will pass with just Republican votes. We will see what Harry Reid does with them then.
However, something even more important was on display last night. Republicans are unified. We know we are on the side of what is right for the American people. We stand together in this fight. The president’s “leadership” and behavior is unconscionable and indefensible. The Democratic leadership thinks this is 1995 again. It is not. The people are different, the circumstances are different and it is a much different time. They think we will break.
We will not.
This fight has grown larger and even more important. It is no longer just about ObamaCare or spending. It is about the operation of our democracy and the application of the U.S. Constitution.
Buckle up. It’s not going to be a short ride and it’s not going to be smooth. But, my instincts tell me it will end well.
More tomorrow. Drive fast and live free!