In a case of the tail wagging the dog, House Republicans, led by radical Tea Party elements within their caucus, have pursued reckless, ideological crusades since taking power. Their actions shut down the government and took us to the brink of what would have been an economically disastrous debt default.
The shutdown, a Tea Party-led effort to defund Obamacare, put over a million federal employees and government contractors out of work. It resulted in delayed disaster relief payments to states like Colorado, which were ravaged by recent floods. Action on pending legislative items that will help grow our economy, such as the bipartisan transportation bill and immigration reform, were shelved. Early estimates suggest the loss of government services alone will drain nearly $3.1 billion from our gross domestic product this year. Economists at Standard & Poor’s peg our lost economic growth as high as $24 billion over the longer term.
A debt ceiling default, avoided at the eleventh hour for the second time in two years, would have crashed the market, driven up interest rates, ground job creation to a halt, undermined consumer confidence, and stalled out economic growth. Our credit rating was downgraded in 2011 during the last debt ceiling showdown. This time around all three credit ratings agencies put the US on watch for attaching political conditions to the once routine procedure of raising of the debt ceiling. It’s unclear after going into default, how long and how painful the process would be to restore confidence in the U.S. Argentina in the early 2000s went through a debt default, over a decade later they still haven’t recovered.
So three weeks after pursuing this damaging, misguided shutdown and debt ceiling brinksmanship, Congress reached a deal to reopen government, lift the debt ceiling…and Obamacare was virtually untouched. No question, the new health law is going to need tweaking going forward. But efforts to destroy it, rather than improve it, led by charlatans like Senator Ted Cruz, willfully ignore several facts: 1) Congress signed it into law, 2) it was upheld by a conservative Supreme Court and, 3) it was a major issue in the most recent presidential election which resulted in a five million vote victory for President Obama. It’s time to move on.
This period of political skullduggery, panic and pain has been purposeless. We’re now back to square one, having only achieved the exposure of the radical destructiveness of the so called Ted Cruz-Tea Party faction within the Republican Party. I am hopeful that going forward, Republicans will rethink their approach to governing and look for ways to reach agreement, rather than foment division. The Budget Committee conference, which began its work this week, has a date of December 13 to reach a deal covering FY’14. This is an opportunity to end sequestration and get our country on more sound, growth-oriented policies. I will be working with my colleagues to support a deal that moves our country in a positive direction, particularly crucial after this past month’s internationally embarrassing, economically damaging debacle.