Where have all the leaders gone?
Baltimore Times Editorial Staff | 10/18/2013, 6 a.m.
There have been many compelling letters about the impact of the government shut down to members of Congress. The letters are deeply personal and reflect the level of frustration and distrust many in the country have for those sent to Washington to look out for the interests of citizens. The members of the U.S. House and Senate have let a lot of people down over the last 17 days.
A deal was brokered by the leaders of the Senate, it passed the House and President Barack Obama signed it. But what have our leaders done to the faith of the American people?
Second Lt. Lindsay Smith, a Louisville, Kentucky, medical student, won’t have her utilities shut off because the government can’t pay her monthly stipend, a plight she
detailed in a letter to her Congressman Rep. John Yarmuth.
Veterans— the disabled and the aged— won’t have to fear loss of disability or pension payments they need to survive and hundreds of thousands of laid-off federal workers can hope to be quickly recalled from furloughs forced by the government shutdown. Head Start, Meals on Wheels and other vital services could be funded.
And yes, even national parks reopened— a closure that caused massive heartburn for states such as Maryland that depend on tourism and a potentially crippling backlash against Republicans blamed for the shutdown.
After 17 days of national gridlock triggered when House Republicans refused to approve a routine government spending plan, a deal has been struck to reopen government and lift the debt ceiling. So, should we all be really proud that Congress, after dragging the country to the edge of financial collapse, appears ready to finally do its job? No!
This sorry saga that threatened the global economy and disrupted the lives of so many Americans was totally avoidable. Yet, those responsible show no regret and no remorse, chief among them Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Tea Party Republican who dragged many in the House GOP but few in the Senate along on his futile
crusade to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
Cruz, a freshman senator, still displayed an arrogance while talking to the press while the grownups— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat; and Republican minority leader Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky— were
announcing a deal to end the shutdown and avert a catastrophic debt default.
No one likes conspiracies but the shutdown may not have been as spontaneous or heroic as some would like to believe. It appears that a gathering took place in Washington on the day that President Obama was sworn into his second term. Numerous members of the House and Senate decided to forgo the pomp and circumstances of the inauguration to attend a private dinner hosted by former Attorney General Ed Meese.
A pledge was apparently made that at whatever costs, and no matter the fallout for the Republican Party, the priority must be to reverse the decision of the Congress and the Supreme Court on the legitimacy of the president’s success in providing comprehensive health care. They almost succeeded.
As much as it appears this whole episode could have been avoided, the president’s position of no talks and no compromise may have delayed the process as well. Maybe if he had shown some interest in at least reviewing Obamacare, the shutdown could have been avoided altogether. Maybe.
The true problem now is that although a deal has been cut, it is only temporary. The extremists in the Republican Party, almost all identified as Tea Party supporters, can make mischief again and again unless Speaker Boehner gets control of his caucus. It is unclear at this point who is in charge— the speaker or the 40 “take no prisoner” members who led the shut down efforts.
Lt. Smith wished she could speak to the leaders in Washington and make them
understand that she is not only angry but she is embarrassed by their behavior. A shame unfortunately, our leaders don’t recognize or share.