U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci issued a statement last week that carried a reminder: “This is a republic, not a dictatorship, negotiations are a requirement, not an option.” The Wadsworth Republican has been among those who have embraced the idea of using a government shutdown as leverage to gain concessions from the Obama White House on the Affordable Care Act.
What Renacci would do well to recall is that health-care reform wasn’t imposed by a presidential edict. No dictatorship at work. Elected majorities enacted legislation. The president campaigned a year ago, implementation of the new law already in motion. He faced an opponent who pledged to undo the act. Still, the president won re-election.
John Boehner has insisted that all he and his caucus want are negotiations. On Tuesday, the House speaker claimed the president wanted an “unconditional surrender.” The hope is, the two sides soon will find a path to reopening the federal government and raising the debt ceiling (so the country can pay bills it already has incurred). That will require talking. Hovering is a question: What are House Republicans prepared to concede, either in the short run or the long run as part of avoiding these unnecessary and harmful episodes?
Are they contending that the president would get the federal government back in operation and a higher debt-ceiling? As if House Republicans have their hearts set on a longer shutdown and a default? Remember that Democrats already have agreed to the Republican spending level for the continuing resolution, a significant concession.
Worth repeating, too, is both the Senate and the House have approved budget plans, but the House has balked at launching a conference committee, or the negotiations they now insist they want. What remains obvious is that Boehner and colleagues have been seeking through legislative extortion what they cannot achieve through the regular channels of Capitol Hill.
That is the bridge too far, and, arguably, in view of the calls to change the health-care law, a violation of House rules that prohibit attaching such legislative matters to appropriations bills. The continuing resolution has been a device for lawmakers to extend temporarily government operations, allowing time to bridge differences. That is the past practice the president wants to follow.
For his part, U.S. Rep. David Joyce has noted that the Affordable Care Act is “the law of the land,” adding that “it’s not worth shutting the government down over something the Senate refuses to take up and the president will certainly veto.” The Geauga County Republican wants to proceed with “a normal budget process.” Too bad he hasn’t had the chance to join a bipartisan majority in support of a simple measure to reopen the government.