Tonawanda News

July 28, 2013

DUVALL: Tea Party's brinksmanship routine is getting old fast

By Eric DuVall
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Normally fall is my favorite time of year. If the coming months are anything like we’re expecting, that won’t be the case.

We’ll set aside our region’s two sports teams whose only competition is for lower expectations than the other. No, I’m not particularly excited for the Bills or Sabres.

On the national front, things are much worse.

Republicans are already threatening to shut down the federal government if the Democrats don’t renounce, well, everything that’s been passed since Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2009.

We’ve had these fights before, especially over health care. The Republicans lost them. Rather than suck it up and move on, the GOP is threatening not to pass budget bills or raise the nation’s debt ceiling unless Obama and the Democrats defund the Affordable Care Act.

That’s never going to happen and from where I’m sitting the Republicans seem just fine with that. By virtue of making demands they know will never be met one must conclude they want a government shut down.

Here’s the problem: Republicans are so enamored of their party orthodoxy they’re unwilling to compromise, well, anything. There are enough conservatives in the House of Representatives that Speaker John Boehner — if he wants to remain speaker — must carry their water. That means refusing to negotiate with Senate Democrats (or Senate Republicans who, though plenty conservative, aren’t quite as nutty as their House counterparts) to reach any kind of consensus on how to govern the country.

So basically, the entire country is being held hostage by a minority of a slim majority of one house of Congress.

There’s been a pattern when it comes to dealing with the Tea Party caucus. Essentially it goes like this:

There’s a bunch of posturing and refusal to make any kind of deal as Republicans and Democrats are so far apart on the issue. Eventually, Republicans push the argument — and the country — to the brink. Then, when Boehner finally finds middle ground his caucus rejects the compromise and Obama is left to deal with the Senate, cutting the House out of the equation entirely. Then once there’s a compromise between senators and the president, Boehner is forced to step aside and rely on minority House Democrats to help pass a bill and prevent the country’s fiscal collapse.

It’s a lousy way to craft public policy and if I were a conservative I’d be irate at Tea Party legislators whose refusal to accept a fairly conservative outcome inevitably leads to a less conservative outcome because they prefer ideological purity to pragmatic policymaking.

Republicans are have turned brinksmanship into a political strategy and the country is far worse off for it.

Yes, there are big problems, though frequently they’re not as big as the GOP makes them sound. The deficit is falling, health care reform is working pretty much as planned, we’ve ended one war and are in the process of ending another. 

There’s still reform needed to Social Security and Medicare though neither system is by any means on the verge of collapse. We can cut more government spending and pass laws that will help create more jobs. 

None of this can happen if Republicans continue to insist we argue about whether or not to pay the bills.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com or follow him on Twitter, @EricRDuVall.