All eyes are on Republican House Speaker John Boehner, which may be the point of this whole mess.
Indeed, there is no question that Boehner is in the driver’s seat of the shutdown, for a couple of reasons. First, he has clearly chained his entire party ideology to the vocal minority in the House of Representatives driving the shutdown. Vulnerable and centrist Republicans in Congress are already doing everything they can to signal a cry for help: their Speaker is not listening to them. They want to end the shutdown.
On this count, the Speaker appears to be striking out. The early signs are that the American people are placing blame for the frustrating shutdown squarely on the shoulders of the GOP. One in four Americans approve of how Republicans have handled the situation. That small minority are likely Tea Party-sympathetic folks.
Second, Boehner has been shown not as the victim of a small minority in his own caucus, but as the perpetrator of a destructive and useless shutdown. If he were to allow the House to vote on the clean budget bill — the one that does not defund the Affordable Care Act, the one already passed by the U.S. Senate — it would pass, and be signed by President Obama.
He won’t let the vote happen.
Despite his insistence that he doesn’t want a national default, I’m guessing that’s exactly what he would like, and the opportunity to make that Obama’s fault… somehow.
Speaker Boehner’s critical mistake is in thinking the American people will actually wait that long through a shutdown. By tomorrow, 5000 children will have lost Head Start funding since the shutdown began just a few days ago. How long before any of the 58 million Americans who will receive more than $800 billion in Social Security benefits, delayed under the shutdown, begin to speak up to their Members of Congress? How long before anyone applying for new Social Security benefits — unable to be processed in the shutdown — complains?
Small business always gets a lot of play in the political world. Applications for new small business loans will not be accepted during the shutdown.
How long before middle class families planning trips to the National Zoo, the Smithsonian, or national parks complain to their Congresspeople?
We’re winding down two wars in this country, and talk a lot about the sacrifices of our veterans. If this shutdown goes past the two-week mark, veteran’s benefits will be adversely affected. How patriotic do you think the Tea Party-lead GOP is now?
Flu season is underway. The CDC has already halted its flu shot program.
In sadder news, children who are cancer patients, along with about 200 other patients who would be admitted to NIH clinical trials, were turned away. I guess Senator Ted Cruz, Speaker Boehner and the rest of them were serious about health care for no one.
Nutrition programs for pregnant women and children in need are grinding to a halt. And if you think WIC and other federal programs helping the poor is just a hand out, then you can complain about it over lunch at your favorite restaurant. Just make sure your favorite restaurant is also a very, very clean restaurant, because food safety inspections are halted, too.
All of these people, all of these families — fathers, mothers, children, babies — all of them, indeed, all of us are impacted by the services of the federal government. My guess is that all of us won’t be quiet for much longer.
And that’s when Boehner will realize the folly of his failed leadership.
The mid-term elections of 2014 aren’t that far off. Will we remember?