The view from the op-ed pages: GOP takes a beating

October 2, 2013

Cartoon by Darkow/Columbia Daily Tribune

The nation’s editorial boards spent Tuesday much the way tourists on the Mall did, expressing their outrage over the government shutdown. The overwhelming number of editorial boards came to the same conclusion: That Republicans — specifically the tea party caucus — are to blame. Even those editorial boards that don’t like the Affordable Care Act think shutting down the government is a bridge too far.

Here’s a sampling of the editorials from around the country:

Kansas City Star: “The government of the people of the United States is partially shut down because a faction of the Republican Party insists on tying further spending to the crippling of President Barack Obama’s health care law.”

The Oregonian: “Not everyone with reservations about the law believes it’s necessary to shut down national parks to express them. That’s not to say the Affordable Care Act, in which Oregon is heavily invested, is wonderful legislation. It’s not. It’s a complex piece of work approved in highly partisan fashion[.] … [T]his week’s events won’t help Republicans make the case that they offer a credible, serious alternative to the party that created [the ACA].”

Seattle Times: “Washington’s get-along, go-along Republican members of Congress must start showing some independence. A good place to begin is by voting “no” on the wacky ideological diversions of their fringe colleagues.”

Los Angeles Times: “Unlike the GOP’s previous flirtations with a government shutdown, this fight isn’t being waged in the name of lower deficits and debt. It’s just a desperate attempt to score political points against the Affordable Care Act before it goes fully into effect and the benefits become clearer.”

San Francisco Chronicle: “The party’s leadership looks powerless in controlling these insurgents, many from congressional districts where boundaries were redrawn to make a moderate outlook untenable. Compromise and balance are being bred out of lawmaking by a haywire system.”

Arizona Republic: “[W]e need the Republican Party to rein in the madness. Sen. John McCain tried. He called out the firebrands on the futility of turning a routine funding bill into a proxy for continuing opposition to Obamacare. But the voice of reason failed. Normally level-headed Speaker John Boehner abdicated his role as resident House parent and joined the binge-happy tea drinkers.”

Albuquerque Journal: “America closed much of its government because its leaders couldn’t even agree on directions to the strip mall that houses the loan office, much less terms of the six-week loan. … Instead of fulfilling No. 1 on their job descriptions and passing a federal budget, then fixing the ACA, members of Congress decided to play politics, no surprise, and co-mingled the funding of general operations with a political hot potato – because you can’t see a furloughed employee’s unpaid bills from their offices in D.C.”

The Salt Lake Tribune: “All the shutdown threats have ever stood to accomplish has been to boost the tea party bona fides of such obstructionists as Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee and Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz. … [T]he idea that Obamacare is such a threat that it would be worth a government shutdown or, much worse, a refusal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling later this month, borders on the insane.”

The Denver Post: “This is a battle Republicans cannot win. President Obama and Senate Democrats have no incentive to offer concessions so long as the public doesn’t hold them responsible for any resulting hardship. Republicans are most likely to be blamed, and then, when the consequences get bad enough, they’ll have little choice but to capitulate.”

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “GOP representatives one after the other repeated the same two arguments: that their party’s stop-Obamacare-at-any-cost budget strategy reflects the ‘will of the people,’ and that Democrats and President Obama simply aren’t willing to compromise. The numbers tell a different, more reality-based story, which is why the natural tendency to blame both sides for the budget debacle should be checked as the shutdown and its potentially harmful economic consequences play out. … It would be one thing if House Republicans were putting only their political futures at risk. But this political equivalent to civil war will likely cause civilian casualties.”

Des Moines Register: “If Senate Democrats were to cave to this threat, federal budgets in the future would be held hostage to any pet project of either party. If that’s the way the game is to be played, congressional Democrats could pass budget resolutions with some demands of their own: tighter controls on gun and ammo sales; elimination of limits on a woman’s right to choose abortion; legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states; hefty tax increases on corporations; controls on greenhouse gas emissions; etc. What the American people have seen play out in Washington this week is a pathetic lack of leadership and statesmanship.”

Miami Herald: “The ACA is not perfect, as President Obama himself has acknowledged. But what’s the alternative? Republicans never made a sincere effort to come up with their own version. That’s one big reason ACA is now the law of the land. … The appropriate way to stop a law is to not pass it in the first place, or to repeal it. Using the budget process is not the way government should work — and not the way government has worked in the past.”

Lexington Herald-Leader: “Republicans, who could have celebrated a win on spending cuts, must instead worry about being blamed for shutting down national parks, cutting off paychecks to 800,000-plus workers, disrupting services to veterans and halting coal mine inspections and permitting.” (Worth the click: The Herald-Leader, which doesn’t have great relations with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, actually paints McConnell in a favorable light: “Kentucky’s Republican senators are offering ways to keep the government funded. Even facing a Tea Party primary challenger, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell voted to end Sen. Ted Cruz’s anti-Obamacare filibuster.”)

Charleston Gazette: “Republicans in Congress are a minority, so they cannot pass laws. But their control of the House lets them block needed legislation — thus they have power to extort. …  What a disgusting mess. Why, for heaven’s sake, are Republicans so determined to take health insurance away from 30 million less-privileged Americans? No wonder many Americans feel contempt for politics and don’t even bother to vote.”

Newark Star-Ledger: “[I]t is time for grown-up Republicans to step up and assert themselves. They have to talk the tea party faction off the ledge and explain that this fight is hopeless, that President Obama is not going to sabotage his own health care reform, the landmark achievement of his first term. … ["Extremists in the House"] are hostage takers. They are threatening to damage the country unless Democrats bend to their will on a policy debate they lost, fair and square. This time it is the Affordable Care Act. Next time it could be another tax cut for the rich, or an expansion of offshore oil drilling.”

Hartford Courant: “House Republicans … aren’t fooling anyone. They who proclaim strict fealty to the Constitution are attempting to sabotage it, to thwart the process, to change a law by holding the government hostage.”

Portland Press Herald: “[T]he people who are feeling the impact of congressional Republicans’ unwillingness to compromise are people who work for the federal government or benefit from government programs. They didn’t contribute to the current impasse, but they’ll bear the brunt of it. And that’s not right.”

House Speaker John Boehner’s leadership, and his hold on the Republican Conference, took a beating.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “The president is right, and about three dozen tea party Republicans who are calling the shots now in Congress are dead wrong. Their leader, House Speaker John Boehner, is either unwilling or unable to stop them. He needs to try.”

Raleigh News & Observer: “This is a sorry commentary indeed on the ineffectiveness of Speaker John Boehner. It’s another head-scratching moment. … [N]ow the question is, why can’t Speaker Boehner, who has the necessary votes to pass a bill to keep the government going without attachments designed to wreck the Affordable Care Act, get that done? The answer is a maddening conundrum: Boehner fears alienating the tea partyers, who though a long way from having a majority can make mischief.”

Concord Monitor: “This is Boehner’s government shutdown. The lachrymose speaker who cries when he sees a little kid recite the Pledge of Allegiance is shedding no tears for the kids who won’t get fed because their Head Start program was closed. The House controls the budget, and the speaker controls the agenda. … House Republicans have turned out the lights because they don’t like the new couch, but the public will only put up with the dark so long.”

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: “The standoff on Capitol Hill culminating in the current federal government shutdown represents the worst possible alternative lawmakers could have selected. It was a cynical political choice made all the more shameful by the fact that real people could suffer from it, especially if it drags on for any length of time. … [C]learly [Boehner] caved to those in his caucus who favor this kind of scorched-earth tactic, ultimately an unproductive exercise other than for the purpose of scoring political points in conservative Republican House districts.”

A few papers placed blame on both sides — to an extent.

The Tennessean: “‘CLOSED’ is never a sign that you want to see — especially when it’s unnecessary and counterproductive. … At this point, it almost doesn’t matter whom you blame for the shutdown — the president, congressional Democrats, mainstream Republicans, the tea party or all of the above — but it is very hard to fathom the perverseness of those who are happy to prove their point on the backs of millions of Americans.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch: “The shutdown of the federal government that began early Tuesday morning represents a massive failure on all sides of the debate in Washington. … The continuing resolution would have passed, though, if House Speaker John Boehner had been able to convince conservative upstarts to accept the proposal put forward by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia’s 7th District. That would have pressed the Senate on Obamacare without forcing a shutdown. They refused. … [A] speaker of greater stature — Sam Rayburn, for instance — would have delivered just such a lesson in a manner those on the receiving end would not soon have forgotten.”

Chicago Tribune: “Past experience, though, suggests that the White House and Congress are playing with fire. Political brinkmanship in Washington creates economic uncertainty. … We can find no heroes in this government shutdown. We can find victims, though: the American citizens whose jobs and standard of living have been put in jeopardy.”

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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