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Shutdown Not Worth a Warm Bucket of...

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This whole idea of a government shutdown is hogwash spewing from a noisy minority of legislators who apparently have nothing better to do than attempt to hold hostage the daily functions of the federal government. And for what? Somehow overturning a health care plan that is, so far, untested but probably not nearly as terrible as the Tea Party would have us believe? They know they haven't a rat's chance of achieving that particular goal. Not going to happen.

The Senate is going to strip the Obamacare language out of the House-passed legislation and the cleaned up, trimmed down bill will wind up in a House-Senate conference committee where the real dealing could begin. If some Republican members choose to sit on their hands during the conference -- or if there is no conference -- then bit-by-bit the federal government will start closing its doors, shutting down its computers, and government workers will stay home. At that point, we'll see just what stuff the Republican Party is made of.

Spoiler alert: Look up John Nance Garner and his famous bucket.

I'm not usually one to rush to judgment, but in this case, as a retired federal worker, I'll make an exception: the GOP in its present incarnation is dead to millions of Americans. Oh, I'm sure millions of other Americans are rooting for the Tea Party to pull some sort of procedural rabbit out of its hat, but folks, let me tell you, there is nothing in that hat but a fuzz ball of hare-brained ideas about government that bear no resemblance to the real world of governance.

Governing a country is hard work; it can't be boiled down to slogans and philosophies, no matter how noble or how vapid. Unless a congressman or senator or president is elected by 100 percent of the voters, they come to office by way of a split decision -- with that portion of the electorate who were in opposition or dormancy still needing equal representation.

That is what members of the Tea Party and other hard-to-the-right ranters don't seem to get. They were elected to work on behalf of all their constituents not just the majority of them. And that's hard work. It's tough to look a voter in the eye and say, "I'm glad you voted for me, but I'm not going to support this piece of legislation because I don't think it's in the best interest of the district (or the state or the country)." That's hard. And it should be.

But there are representatives and senators who don't want hard; they want easy. They believe that breaking things is easier than fixing things; they believe that posing and posturing, ranting and headline-grabbing is much easier than the actual business of analyzing, debating, and voting based on facts and, yes, the C word: compromise.

I spent 14 years working on Capitol Hill, in both the House and Senate, and another 20 years working in the Executive Branch. Along with millions of other federal employees, I had a great opportunity to watch and sometimes actually participate in the process of governance. It wasn't always pretty, but it wasn't all sausage-making either. When it worked, it was because men and women of differing opinions fought honorably and hard for their positions to prevail, knowing that at some point it might be necessary to compromise to achieve a portion of what they believed in.

In my three-decades-plus span of service in Washington, I worked around and with two of best: Senator Al Simpson and Congressman Norman Mineta. Closer friends you could not find anywhere in America. Each represented his political party ably and with conviction. But when compromise was needed, when progress demanded partnership, Simpson and Mineta drew together and moved legislation, and the country, forward.

I miss Simpson and Mineta and all the other compromisers who knew the work of governance often requires taking something off the table in order to put something else on... something else that just might make the whole mechanism work for the public good. Those days are long gone, I'm afraid. Now, it's just all take and no give. Al Simpson, quoted in Politico last week, said, "This is a sense of madness. You have people in my party who didn't come there to limit government, they came to stop it."

The votes will soon be counted, and if the Luddites win I hope they are happy with their warm buckets of... well, you know what John Nance Garner called it. That's about all the Republican Party will be worth.