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Sunday, September 22, 2013

The fools on  the (Capitol) hill

Telegraph Editorial

The Do-Nothing Congress is finally doing something.

Unfortunately, they’re making fools of themselves. Not all of them, mind you, but enough so that the country may be in for a bumpy ride over the next several weeks. ...

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The Do-Nothing Congress is finally doing something.

Unfortunately, they’re making fools of themselves. Not all of them, mind you, but enough so that the country may be in for a bumpy ride over the next several weeks.

As you may have heard, the Republican-controlled House on Friday approved a bill to temporarily fund the government. It was a 230-189 vote, mostly along party lines, but the measure included no money for the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.”

That last part is sure to doom it this week in the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority, thus setting the stage for a showdown.

If both sides don’t agree on a spending bill by Oct. 1, the country could be looking at a government shutdown that would idle thousands of workers and potentially damage an already fragile economy. Shortly after the shutdown, the government would begin to default on its bills.

Republicans in the House have voted more than 40 times to repeal Obamacare, knowing full well that it had no chance of passing the Senate.

We’ll grant them that the ACA is turning into the disaster that many of its critics predicted. As we have seen locally, some people will have to change the hospitals and doctors they’ve been going to for years as a result of the law’s implementation.

But that’s what happens, we suppose, when you pass a thousand-page law that nobody has actually read.

But as flawed as the law may be, Republicans are flat-out wrong to try to hold the budget bill hostage. They’re acting like a bunch of petulant children throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way.

We say: Get over it.

The Affordable Care Act is law – warts and all – and has been constitutionally vetted by the Supreme Court.

Republicans, undoubtedly, are hoping that, by keeping the law in the spotlight, it will help them in next November’s elections. If they think it’s the linchpin to political success, they should by all means use it on the campaign trail.

But this is neither the time nor the place to have that debate.

Even if Obamacare wasn’t a sticking point, the chances for compromise on a continuing resolution would be bleak. The underlying problem is that we elect people who put party above country and politics above solutions.

According to the nonpartisan website www.open
congress.org
, the vast majority of members of Congress vote with their party more than 90 percent of the time. By our count, fewer than 10 members of the 435-member House bucked their party even 20 percent of the time. And only seven of the 98 affiliated senators (two are independent) voted against their party at least 20 percent of the time.

Even allowing for the fact that some – perhaps even many – of the votes they cast were procedural, it’s hard to believe that marching in party lockstep that often serves the country well.

And in case you’re wondering, OpenCongress says members of New Hampshire’s delegation have voted with their party about as often as most of their colleagues:

n Ann McLane Kuster:
94 percent

n Carol Shea-Porter:
94 percent

n Jeanne Shaheen:
93 percent

n Kelly Ayotte: 84 percent

The three Democratic members of the delegation make the lone Republican – Ayotte – look like a bastion of bipartisanship by comparison.

It’s no wonder that gridlock is the norm in Washington and some of the more centrist members have left in frustration or been defeated by extremists.

We might as well send sheep to Washington.