Guest Column: Not another temper tantrum

The Miami Herald

The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Tuesday, Oct. 1:

The government of the most powerful nation in the world came to a standstill at midnight because Congress refused to fund its operations. A right-wing faction of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives insists on defunding the Affordable Care Act in exchange for keeping the government open. Here are the Top 10 reasons this is wrong:

10: Law of the land. Opponents tried every which way to kill health care reform in Congress, but they failed. The bill was signed into law by President Obama in March of 2010. Then critics went the judicial route, saying it would never withstand judicial scrutiny. Wrong. Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative hero, wrote the key opinion upholding the law.

9: It actually helps people. The law’s main objective was to assist 30 million Americans shut out of health-care insurance because of cost, pre-existing conditions and a variety of other reasons. This is an undeniable advancement in terms of accessibility and fairness for all Americans.

8: Defunding not popular. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll in August, more Americans have an unfavorable view of the law than those who favor it, by a 42-37 percent margin. But a majority of 57 percent say they disapprove of the idea of cutting off funding as a way to keep the law from being implemented.

7. Hurts the economy. Some 780,000 federal workers will be furloughed indefinitely. Critical government services will cease. It costs more money to shut the government and open it again than to keep it open. Stock markets decline, personal spending dwindles, faith in the future is clouded.

6. Waste of time. The Republican majority in the House can’t impose its will on the government because Democrats control the Senate and the White House. The shutdown tactic amounts to a pointless tantrum, a fight for the sake of having a fight. The key elements of the Affordable Care Act take effect on Oct. 1 no matter what Congress does.

5. Dereliction of duty. Government has an obligation to pay its bills. Shutting it down represents an abject failure to perform a fundamental task by the branch that controls the purse strings. Lawmakers have a duty to try to improve government programs they failed to stop in the legislative process. By taking an all-or-nothing stance on the Affordable Care Act — demanding its elimination and refusing to negotiate on improvements — critics have defaulted on a basic obligation.

4. No alternative. The ACA is not perfect, as President Obama himself has acknowledged. But what’s the alternative? Republicans never made a sincere effort to come up with their own version. That’s one big reason ACA is now the law of the land.

3. Wrong procedure. The appropriate way to stop a law is to not pass it in the first place, or to repeal it. Using the budget process is not the way government should work — and not the way government has worked in the past.

2. Distraction. The fight over funding healthcare reform has taken valuable time and attention Congress needs to focus on other pressing issues, like immigration reform and finding a sensible way to reduce the budget deficit and national debt to grow the economy.

1. Elections have consequences. Sen. Obama was elected in 2008 after campaigning for healthcare reform. Congress approved it in 2010. President Obama championed the controversial law when he ran for reelection in 2012. He won. Elections have consequences.