As I sit and type this column, it looks like we are entering what will hopefully be the last stretch of the government shutdown/debt ceiling fight/I thought this was originally about the Affordable Care Act debate.
As you are aware, the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans are at odds over the budget. At the center of the shutdown is the GOP demand that the President does what he has done for employers and delays the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act as part of a continuing resolution to keep the government functioning. The President basically told Republicans to “get bent” and thus we are in shutdown mode.
Although I find the ACA to be an abomination, sorry, make that “Obamanation,” the Republicans made a big tactical error by allowing the government to shutdown on Oct. 1. You see that was the day the health exchanges went online and that was the day millions of people could not get on. I know I was one of them. I was working on a story for nationwide news service and part of my task was to try and log on to the health exchange.
And believe me, I tried.
I tried at 4:15 a.m., 5:15 a.m., 6:15 a.m., and 7:30 a.m., and had no luck. I had a speech to give in Evansville that afternoon, so when I got there I tried to log on again (using my iPad and wireless card) and had no luck. I gave it another shot when I got back and still, no luck! I did finally manage to log in that Friday afternoon, after spending two hours (which could have been spent billing clients). Of course when I finally signed in and clicked the final button I got an error message telling me I would have to try again this past weekend. And guess what, no luck then either because the website was taken down for repairs.
And should have been the narrative.
Millions of people trying to comply with the law couldn’t do it because the Obama administration didn’t have the right infrastructure to get the job done. Instead, the main headline was the government shutdown and the health exchanges were regulated to the second page. Republicans could have found people in their districts who could not sign on and used that as the perfect propaganda piece. Instead, we get pictures of veterans who have to storm the World War II Memorial because it’s shutdown.
In addition, the GOP had no end game strategy on this. They were expecting the President to blink and likely had no clue as to what their plan would be if he called their bluff. Congress’ approval rating is now at 10 percent. Of course by the time I post this it could be 5 percent, which, by the way, used car salesmen, root canals, head lice and lawyers have higher approval ratings.
So here we are going into day 12. And it looks like the grown up Republican in the room is going to be Paul Ryan who is working on a budget deal. The GOP should have got the hint when Speaker John Boehner earlier said he would not allow the nation to default on its debts, so using the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool is out. So at the end of the day, what did my Republican friends, I’m sorry, what did the Tea Party conservatives actually accomplish?
Not a darn thing. I hope this is worth it.