Opinion Columns & Blogs

Editorial: Pay the nation’s bills, reopen the government

Unable to get its way on a host of policy issues, including Obamacare, a minority in one house of Congress continues to use extortion tactics, threatening to lead the nation to default if it doesn’t get its way.

Twenty to 30 members of the tea party Republican caucus in the House of Representatives thus have shut down the federal government since Oct. 1 and now are prepared to crater the U.S. and international economies. On Tuesday it was learned that the credit rating agency Fitch put the United States on a “negative ratings watch.” The Republican leadership in the House, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority whip, ought to end these tactics of economic terrorism immediately.

If we give in to this hostage-taking by a minority in the House, we will see a repeat of this disaster every time the nation’s bills come due. House Speaker John Boehner, McCarthy and others should push back against the tea party caucus and bring clean resolutions to the House floor for a vote – with no policy attachments – to pay the nation’s bills and reopen the government.

House leaders also should make clear that they reject nonsensical “pay the debt first” proposals by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, and others who would make debt payments a priority over all other U.S. spending obligations. Everyone should know McClintock’s scheme really is a “pay China (and other foreign holders of U.S. debt) first” while not paying obligations here at home.

That’s like telling a family it should make its credit card payments, but stop paying the mortgage, electricity, gas and phone bills, car payments, college fees, and buying food.

McClintock took this same stance in 2011, but still does not answer the obvious question. If debt payments to investors come first, what would the government not pay? U.S. military salaries? Social Security and Medicare benefits? Unemployment benefits? Student loan payments? Medicaid health care payments to the states?

Surely the richest nation in the world can afford to make payments on the debt and keep government open.

The tea party minority in the House blithely talks about “constitutional usurpations” by the Senate and the president, an absurd reversal of the truth. That was all very apparent in the “shutdown theater” at a rally of 200 people on Sunday with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. Palin denounced those who would “use our military, our vets, as pawns in a political game” – as she stood next to Cruz, the man driving the government shutdown. Who is using vets as pawns?

Then came the speech by Larry Klayman of FreedomWatch, who has been urging Americans to go to the nation’s capital on Nov. 19 and shut the city down until Obama agrees to leave office. Klayman on his website urges Americans to “cleanse the nation of the half-Muslim, anti-white, socialist fraud in the White House before the nation goes under for the final count.” At the rally at the World War II Memorial, Klayman called for revolution, as he has been for months, urging Americans to demand that Obama leave town, “put the Quran down, get up off his knees” and “come out with his hands up!”

Not to be outdone, a man waved a large Confederate flag, the symbol of disunity and secession.

These radicals are the opposites of patriots, with no sense of duty to the nation as a whole.

The shutdown and the brinksmanship on the national debt all could have been resolved weeks ago – and still can be resolved today – by Boehner bringing clean resolutions, not larded up with pet policy issues, to the House floor for a vote.

That is what the American people should demand of their representatives: Bring clean resolutions to the House floor. Americans have built the nation’s credit and a position as the anchor of the international financial system over 224 years, and should not allow a minority in the House to destroy it.