On Tuesday, the federal government officially entered what is known as a “partial shutdown” due to the failure of the Democratic Senate to reach an agreement with the Republican House on Obamacare and the funding of the federal government. To most Americans, this means remarkably little in real terms. Life continues as normal, as all “essential” government activities remain operational. And yet, were one to believe the Left’s narrative of events, one would think Washington, DC is currently experiencing a hostage situation in which congressional Republicans are “political terrorists”, as Al Gore put it, pointing a fiscal gun at the heads of the American people.
If anything, the Left’s commentary of the temporary slimming down of government activities demonstrates their alleged respect for compromise is nothing but so much partisan hot air. The Republican House watered down their first bill to totally defund Obamacare by simply delaying Obamacare’s implementation for one year while prohibiting lawmakers, their staff, and administration officials from receiving government healthcare subsidies. In both cases, the Democrats rejected the proposals, if only to paint the Republicans as villains. In actuality, the Republicans should be commended for their efforts.
But the most telling response to Tuesday’s reduction of government activity is the response by President Obama. As reported by the New York Times, the president commented, “One faction in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election… You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job.” His official Twitter account further expressed his displeasure: “They actually did it. A group of Republicans in the House just forced a government shutdown over Obamacare instead of passing a real budget.”
What you see in the reaction of President Obama is not the mentality of an elected official struggling to overcome a lack of political clout to accomplish personal policy goals. Rather, you see the anger and frustration of a withering political idol with an autocratic mindset, angry at not getting his way. You see the arrogance of a man trying desperately to convince the country that his reelection legitimizes his illegitimate policies and that it gives him the authority to entirely disregard the House of Representatives — as if their election was in some way less legitimate, or as if the policy choices they make are any less affirmed by their own constituents’ choices.
President Obama seems to forget the constitutional structure of our government – that no branch can operate without the consent and cooperation of the others. Any bill regarding the funding of the federal government must have the agreement of both chambers of Congress, as well as the President of the United States, to take effect. If either chamber disagrees with a proposed bill (which, given it is a funding bill, must originate House), they are free to halt it and prevent its passage. If the president himself disagrees with a bill approved by both houses of Congress, he is free to veto it.
It is not a matter of, as the president characterizes it, “extracting ransom.” It is the product of the Enlightenment principles at the core of our Constitution, preventing autocratic rule by dividing the powers of government into separate branches and multiple hands. It is the very point of our government that one “faction” (really, the majority of one chamber) of one branch of the government is all that is needed to protect the American people from unjust laws and violations of their individual rights. And this is precisely what the Republican House is doing: preventing the passage of poor laws – a far more important matter than passing good ones, as noted by President Calvin Coolidge.
If the president wants to discuss “refighting” the results of the 2012 election, he should look first to himself rather than to the Republican House. They, after all, won their elections as well, and they recognize that they need not and ought not lie on their backs while the Democratic minority in their own chamber approve the president’s agenda without restriction. In fact, seven Democrats joined House Republicans on the latest bill, and ten Republicans opposed it, exemplifying the increasingly bipartisan nature of House attempts to fund the government while Harry Reid’s Senate continues uniformly rejecting all House proposals.
Contrary to the rhetoric, it is President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Reid still struggling to come to terms with their loss of the House of Representatives in 2010 – a loss almost exclusively the product of public dissatisfaction with the president’s healthcare law. In any case, President Obama must cast aside all delusions of his ability to operate without the House of Representatives. The House is as necessary to the functioning of the federal government as its sister chamber and the other branches of government, and it is just as vital as well. The House was designed to be the most responsive to the American people, and thus most representative of their wills, and so it is the House — not the president — that most closely reflects the nation’s stance on Obamacare. It must be remembered, the importance in the Founding Fathers’ choice of the word “president” to signify the Chief Executive of the United States – a president presides over the government and the nation. He does not rule it.