Sunday, September 29, 2013

Republicans reduce demands for releasing the government hostage, but the threat of shutdown continues

John Boehner
When House Republicans started the debate over the continuing resolution to fund the government they started their bargaining at the high end.  Not only would ObamaCare have to be defunded, but nearly all of the Mitt Romney economic policies he campaigned on were added to the pot.  The Democrats in the Senate would not hear any of it, so they stripped everything out of the House bill except for the continuing resolution itself and returned it to the House.

Democrat majority leader Harry Reid forewarned House Republicans that any bill sent in response that included any changes to ObamaCare would be "dead on arrival" to the Senate chamber.  That didn't stop the Republicans on their second volley attempt at modifying the bill.

Late Saturday night, House Republicans reduced their requirements to two major ones related to ObamaCare.  They are now seeking a one year delay in the introduction of the program and elimination of a 2.3% tax on medical device manufacturers which was a requirement of ObamaCare funding.  Although this reduction in demands may be seen by the Republican base as a serious offer, it is unlikely to be met with anything but refusal when the bill goes to the Senate.

Neither the Senate nor the House is expected to be in session on Sunday, so it is almost certain that the government will shutdown unless a new bill can be drafted and passed by both chambers of Congress on Monday, September 30.

In an apparent concession that the government will close down, Republicans also passed a bill that would continue uniformed military pay in the event of a government shutdown.

As always, Republicans have been cunning in formulating strategies to advance their political agenda.  One Republican Congressman interviewed by MSNBC indicated that the goal of the one year delay was to allow time for Republicans to regroup and win the Senate back in 2014 when they could take care of the whole deal with ObamaCare.  A comment that made one think they planned to eliminate the program as soon as they were in control of both Houses.

The 2.3% medical device tax was a requirement of ObamaCare on medical device manufacturers' profits.  At the time of creation, legislators and manufacturers agreed that ObamaCare, with all of the new patients being covered, would give a windfall of new profits to all medical industries, some of which should be used to help fund the program.  Other medical industries agreed that between $60 billion and $80 billion was a fair amount to return for the increased revenue from ObamaCare over ten years.  The medical device industry however, has said that the 2.3% tax would be damaging to their industry and have spent over $150 million on lobbyists trying to get out of the deal.  If Republicans were successful in removing the proceeds from this tax, ObamaCare would essentially be defunded by some $35 billion over 10 years.

How long will it take Republicans to realize that Democrats just need a clean continuing resolution bill without attachments related to changes to ObamaCare?  Republicans have gone outside of the normal procedures of a democracy.  It is new ground that they are breaking by threatening harm to America unless they get their policies passed.  We can only hope that they do not repeat the same behavior when the debt ceiling comes up for a vote in the next few weeks.

Their actions during this President's term in office should give policy makers ample reason to justify legislation to reign in such harmful tactics by members of Congress.

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