We have grown accustomed to Congress "managing by crisis," as U.S Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) phrased it on the Senate floor on Wednesday. Instead of taking the time necessary to have a full discussion on the nation's biggest problems, lawmakers choose to kick the can a little further down the road every time these fiscal "crisis" arise.
The latest fiscal debate over keeping the government funded into the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year, which actually begins on October 1, has been reduced to a struggle to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA, more commonly referred to as Obamacare) before its implementation at the risk of a government shutdown if a budget deal is not met by the deadline 5 days from now.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that would temporarily fund the federal government for a few months, but would completely defund Obamacare. It was obvious -- just as it was obvious the 40+ times the House voted to repeal the health care law -- that such a proposal would not pass the Senate and even if it did, it would be vetoed by President Obama and it is extremely unlikely opponents of Obamacare would have the votes to override a veto.
Just like the several "symbolic" votes to repeal the ACA, it is just another act in this ongoing political theater. There are no efforts to agree on real and productive solutions. Even the time spent fruitlessly voting to repeal Obamacare could have been spent proposing reforms to fix and improve health care reform. We are less than a week from the beginning of the next fiscal year and no one has proposed legislation that would fix sequestration and cuts real wasteful spending.
No, we have to defund Obamacare, because Obamacare will destroy America. It will be the end of civilization as we know it. Planes will drop from the sky. The earth will be torn asunder. Millions will perish. The apocalypse is nigh!
At least, this is how the debate has been shaped.
Some news outlets like Drudge Report are running ominous headlines like, "T-Minus 5 Days," a foreboding countdown to the implementation of Obamacare which makes a person feel like they are caught up in an episode of 24. Where is Jack Bauer and how will he save us from the biggest threat facing America?
This debate deserves more seriousness than it is getting. Many would argue that there are flaws in the Affordable Care Act, but it is not like lawmakers did not see the implementation of the law coming.
There have been plenty of opportunities to present practical reform measures for a vote that would ensure a maximum amount of Americans can afford health care while minimizing the effect the law could have on businesses and the economy. There have been plenty of opportunities to fix sequestration. There have been plenty of opportunities to propose measures that would target real wasteful spending.
Instead, lawmakers of both mainstream political parties choose political drama over a serious, productive debate. The Affordable Care Act will not be the end of American society. It won't do much good, but it won't destroy health care in the United States. A government shutdown will not be the end of the world either because lawmakers will not allow one to happen for very long. The government has shut down 17 times since 1976 -- the last time lasting 3 weeks -- and America survived.
In the end, an eleventh hour "compromise" will be made and the can will be kicked a little further down the road. Neither Republicans nor Democrats on Capitol Hill will work to find real solutions to get Congress' fiscal house in order and America will watch the same partisan drama play out in December. The merry go round keeps going round and round, and voters are feeling nauseous.