Our Opinion: Playground bullies


Those whacky Republicans are at it again, throwing tantrums like they were a bunch of 2-year-olds fighting over a shovel in the sandbox.

"If we don't get what we want, we're gonna shut down the government!"

First they linked a government funding bill to defunding Obamacare and now they are threatening to keep the debt ceiling where it is if Democrats don't cave on their demands to delay Obamacare's implementation by one year.

But that's not all they are demanding to raise the debt limit. They also want the Keystone pipeline approved, more offshore drilling, more energy production on federal lands, rewriting of coal ash regulations, a suspension of the EPA's efforts to regulate carbon emissions, increased means testing for Medicare recipients, an overhaul of Dodd-Frank and implementation of Rep. Paul Ryan's tax reform plan (and more, but we don't have room for the entire wish list).

Congress has until Sept. 30 to come up with a compromise to keep the government running and has until Oct. 17 to raise the debt ceiling.

Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, writing for the Washington Post, said the GOP's debt limit bill is not a serious governing document: "It's a cry for help."

"House republicans are walking into the debt-ceiling negotiations with an opening bid that makes them look ridiculous," wrote Klein and Soltas. "It's a wonder it's not written in comic sans."

Meanwhile, the Senate voted 100-0 on Wednesday to move ahead on a spending plan that strips the Obamacare defunding language from the House of Representatives bill.

Yes, 100-0, which included Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who took to the floor of the Senate and spent 21 hours spewing his hatred of Obamacare, mixed in with quotes from Dr. Seuss and the Founding Fathers and references to Star Wars.

(On Friday afternoon, the Senate voted 54-44 to strip the defunding language from the legislation.)

At one point, Cruz characterized Obamacare as "the biggest job killer in this country."

We really know what is the biggest job killer in this country, it's the cold, calculating Republicans who have stymied out of sheer maleficence every piece of legislation and suggestion by Democrats and Pres. Obama.

Though Cruz said on Monday "Any senator who votes (to move forward) is voting to give Harry Reid the authority to fund Obamacare," after the Wednesday vote he said clearly there are "divisions" in the Republican party over how to proceed with government funding and the debt ceiling.

Some Democrats have accused Republicans of taking the country hostage in their attempts to redefine obstructionism. But in fact, the people they are taking hostage are the majority of Americans who don't have $1 million or more to plunk down into a campaign chest to gain favors from our legislators.

As Vermont's own Sen. Bernie Sanders noted, a threatened government shutdown will cause a loss of jobs and income for thousands of Americans and hurt seniors, veterans, college students and others.

"Shutting the government down will slow down economic growth and job creation, and it will also mean that many Vermont federal employees will not get a paycheck they deserve. It will also slow down the processing of claims for Social Security, veterans benefits and many other programs -- which is extremely unfair," said Sanders.

While current Social Security veterans benefits won't be affected, applications for new benefits would be delayed and services for seniors would be significantly curtailed.

The Department of Defense estimates that during a shutdown nearly half of the civilian workforce would be sent home without pay, while the rest would continue to work for delayed pay. Service members would also stay on duty without pay.

"Many military families live paycheck to paycheck and some have incomes so low that they qualify for food stamps," noted Sanders.

Colleges may be unable to pay students who are employed on federal work-study programs or provide students with federal Perkins loans.

A government shutdown could force Head Start centers in Vermont and around the country to close and could delay financial support for more than 1,000 small businesses a week.

And, just in time for flu season, a shutdown could restrict the ability of the Centers for Disease Control to monitor disease outbreaks, the National Institutes of Health may stop answering its hotline for medical questions, and the Food and Drug Administration may have to delay reviewing new drugs.

More than likely, something will be worked out by legislators before the government hits crisis mode, but this is no way to run a country, and only one party is to blame.

As Robert Reich noted, "The GOP is a hollow shell infested with right-wing nihilists, like Ted Cruz and Eric Cantor, conservative fanatics like Paul Ryan and Mike Lee, and a Star Wars barroom of cranks and crackpots, mostly bankrolled by a few billionaires and cheer-leaded by wackos on Fox News and yell radio. No responsible adult is in charge, and yet the rest of us are being held hostage to their playground antics."


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