Today, outrageously, our government is closed. Here's the most important fact about this shutdown: It is not really about funding the government.
Democrats and Republicans have agreed on a short-term funding level for the federal government. That level is painful for Democrats, as it requires severe cuts in government services -- to levels lower even than Paul Ryan first proposed. But I, along with almost all Congressional Democrats, am willing to accept this outcome temporarily to keep our country running.
Yet the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party in the House insists they will block any funding bill unless it includes the de facto repeal of health reform.
Perhaps you support health reform; perhaps you do not. But this much is certain: It was duly enacted, and the Tea Party lacks the votes to repeal it by ordinary, democratic means.
So they are trying a reckless, undemocratic alternative. By shutting down the government and threatening to default on America's debts, they hope to cause so much pain that Congress and the President will be forced to bend to their will.
But if one faction of one party can overturn any duly passed law at will, what will their next demand be? The privatization of Medicare? Tax cuts for millionaires? The abolition of the minimum wage or the Department of Education? Perhaps, if you are a conservative Republican, these policy changes appeal to you, but bear in mind that an insurgent liberal faction could use the same leverage to demand policies you would despise.
If this strategy succeeds and is legitimated, then the U.S. will become essentially ungovernable. Our public policy will be determined, not by the consent of the people, but by the willingness of minority factions to inflict pain to achieve their ends.
That must not happen. And this outrageous behavior is why we should not say that "Congress" has caused this shutdown, for to do so allows the blameworthy to escape blame. We should hold accountable the reckless few who are trying to break our democracy.
Understanding the Health Reform Law
Despite the government shutdown, the health reform law continues to move forward. On Tuesday, the new federal health insurance Marketplace opened at HealthCare.gov, enabling New Jerseyans to compare and purchase comprehensive insurance options and even qualify for subsidies to help cover the costs of their insurance plans.
I have added a new section of my website dedicated to health reform, including answers to frequently asked questions about the law: What is the Marketplace? What are the differences between bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans available in the Marketplace? Do you need to take any action if you already have insurance through your employer or Medicare?
The answers to these and many other questions are available online. Of course, if you find that your question is not answered, please do not hesitate to contact me at 1-87-RUSH-HOLT or by sending an e-mail through my website.
A Parable (With Thanks to Rep. Mike Doyle)
As the Affordable Care Act rolls out, I expect we will see some changes that should be made in the law to make it work better. That is true with any major law. And that is something everyone -- including the President and the Democrats in Congress -- agree on. There should be and can be discussions -- civil, constructive discussions -- within accepted legislative procedures. So too on the budget. Those who have shut the government wrongly say the Democrats won't negotiate.
A gang corners a man and says, "We are going to burn your house down." "No, you're not," says the man.
The gang says, "OK, then, we are going to burn the second floor of your house." "No, you're not," says the man.
The gang says, "OK, then, we are going to burn several rooms of your house." "No, you're not," says the man.
The gang leader says, "What's wrong with you? You won't negotiate."
Member of Congress