Republican members of the House of Representatives voted 230-189 to use the prospect of a government shutdown to force the Senate and President Barack Obama to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Time is of the essence, they say, for the new health care system is supposed to begin enrolling people on the first of the month. For good measure they say another round of tax cuts for corporations and approval of the XL Pipeline are also on the table.
Most opinion polls on the ACA usually ignore the fact that about one-fifth of those "opposed" are listed that way because they believe the law doesn't go far enough in the direction of a single-payer system. Also, when broken down into its constituent parts, such as allowing 26-year-olds to remain on their parents' health plans, the individual components of the law are quite popular.
Like the polls that assured Fox News commentators that Mitt Romney was going to win in a landslide, these surveys are swirling around inside the Republican Bubble. Inside the bubble they also ignore polls showing that an overwhelming majority, over 70 percent, oppose a government shutdown.
"Americans for Prosperity" and other right-wing groups are spending lavishly on advertisements designed to misinform as many people as possible about the ACA prior to the law's implementation. And it apparently has worked, at least with a segment of the Republican base.
Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute have studied congressional dysfunction under Republican zealotry and their report should be required reading for people like Chuck Todd and David Gregory and other media figures who insist on always cutting the causes of this political crisis right down the middle equally blaming Democrats.
When institutionalists like Mann and Ornstein point out that it's the Republicans in the House that are the cause of the gridlock, the "serious" mainstream press -- you know, all those people who yuk it up at the Washington Correspondents Dinner -- should take notice and report accurately what's going on here:
On one side, we have a right-of-center Democratic president willing to bend over backwards to strike any kind of "grand bargain" with the Republicans that gives them 90 percent of what they want; while on the other side, we have an extremist gaggle of right-wing kooks and nutcases whose hatred of Obama is like a disease among them.
What are we supposed to call a cabal of politicians, many of them elected through voter suppression, gerrymandering, or in "safe" districts, backed by corporations and billionaires, who purposely gum up the works of our nation's legislature, manufacture crises that hurt ordinary people, threaten our nation's credit worthiness, and hold the country hostage until it gets its narrow extremist agenda passed?
"[T]he constitutional conservatives in the House," Texas Representative John Culberson said, "are keeping their word to our constituents and our nation to stand true to our principles, to protect them from the most unpopular law ever passed in the history of the country -- Obamacare -- that intrudes on their privacy and our most sacred right as Americans to be left alone." No hyperbole here.
The Republican state insurance commissioner in Georgia promised to do "everything in our power to be an obstructionist." Even supposedly "thoughtful" right-wingers, like David Frum and Michael Steele, have already declared Obamacare a "failure" even though the law hasn't been implemented yet.
It's hard to believe that "the American people" are so upset about the mild reforms contained in the ACA that they're demanding a government shut down and a default on the national debt to stop it. No wonder Congress' approval rating is the lowest in decades.
They apparently really think that their nihilistic tactics will be politically advantageous for their Senate candidates in 2014. Even while Republican Establishment figures like Karl Rove are trying to warn the fanatics in the House that they're on a kamikaze mission.
Representative Phil Gingrey of Georgia complains about making a "measly" $172,000 a year on the U.S. government's dime while voting to deny food to the hungriest people in the country through savage cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition program. Where are the adults?
Doesn't a political party to remain viable need to be able to point to an accomplishment that benefits the country once in a while?
Back in 1995, the last time House Republicans shut down the federal government demanding steep cuts in Medicare, the amazing coincidence occurred of a far-right anti-government zealot thinking it was the perfect time to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City.
With a little luck there will be a point reached when the GOP's paymasters among the giant corporations and billionaires get nervous about closing down a government that functions as a cash cow for them. The captains of industry and finance, the people who the bumpkins in the House Republican Caucus believe they are serving, will pull the plug on this brinkmanship the moment it hits their bottom line.