- - Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Conventional wisdom in Washington is that the first government shutdown in 17 years will only hurt Republicans. That might be true in the short term, but it will help GOP members in 2014, because they followed the will of their constituents instead of cowing to political pressure.

As Obamacare started enrolling the uninsured on Tuesday, President Obama came to the Rose Garden to lay full blame for the political morass at the feet of the conservative congressional Republicans. He did not offer any compromise or show willingness to negotiate. Instead, he gloated.

“Shutting down our government doesn’t accomplish their stated goal,” he said with “real” Americans standing behind him. “Because of its funding sources, it’s not impacted by a government shutdown. And these Americans are here with me today because even though the government is closed, a big part of the Affordable Care Act is now open for business.”

Mr. Obama blamed the shutdown on “one faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government.” That was code for Tea Party, which Democrats think have a negative connotation. Actually, a majority of the House and all Republicans in the Senate have voted in favor of the five bills that would have funded the government while stopping or slowing Obamacare.

In the flurry to get a continuing resolutions passed before the Oct. 1 deadline, the House passed five bills that would keep the government open but modify Obamacare. All five were rejected by the Senate. The White House issued veto threats for the House bills, too. They offered proposals ranging from completely defunding the health care law to delaying implementation for individuals for a year to just ending the medical-device tax to cutting off huge subsidies of the Obamacare premiums to members of Congress and their staffs.

The president’s remarks came after Senate Democrats rejected a House bill that simply called for a conference committee to negotiate over their differences about implementing Obamacare. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “They seem completely opposed to negotiation or compromise on a law that’s killing jobs, driving up premiums, and driving people out of the health care plans they already have and like. And they don’t even want to talk about it.”

The president’s message to Capitol Hill was that no matter how bad the biggest new entitlement program in more than 50 years is for Americans, nothing will stop it. Meanwhile across the country, people found multiple problems in trying to sign up for government-funded health care. The president likened these “glitches” to Apple’s rollout of its new operating system.

The 2013 shutdown is different than the ones in the 1990s in two ways. Back then, Republicans controlled both the House and Senate and were able to fight President Clinton in lockstep. This time, the effort was initiated by the minority GOP in the Senate, in particular freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, joined by a more conservative faction in the House, who pressured their leadership to get on board.

Second, this battle is not about spending. Senate Democrats already backed off their demands to increase spending above the levels agreed to in the 2011 debt-ceiling deal.

I have been traveling around the country the past two weeks on a book tour, which gave me the opportunity to hear what the public thinks of Washington. The common thread from voters in Kansas, Colorado and Texas was that their elected officials weren’t listening to them.

In Colorado last month, they recalled two state senators — one was the Democratic majority leader — ostensibly for their votes for new gun-control laws, but more out of frustration with the political process. Republicans who had never held public office were elected in both Democratic-majority districts.

The people I spoke to in Colorado said that these recalls were a microcosm for how they felt about Washington. They are angry that the president and congressional representatives don’t hear their protests to do something about the stagnant economy, jobs, the almost $17 trillion debt crisis and Obamacare.

In the end, Republicans control just one half of one third of the federal government. They will end up getting about that proportion of any final deal on funding and Obamacare. But reining in a small part of the president’s massive health care entitlement program is worth the fight. The GOP should not back down.

Emily Miller is a senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of “Emily Gets Her Gun” (Regnery, 2013).

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