Well, unless some unexpected change of heart takes place, it appears that Republicans in Washington, D.C., will have their way tonight in temporarily shutting down the U.S. government, just as they did back in 1995--and again for reasons that have little to do with the budget, and everything to do with culture-war issues.
Democrats and President Obama have gone out of their way to reach a spending compromise to avert what could be another setback for a slowly but surely improving national economy. Yet that’s not good enough for the GOP’s deluded political extremists. They want to load up the spending legislation with “riders” that would, for instance, defund Planned Parenthood, which operates hundreds of community health centers across the nation. They insist that “90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are for abortion”--even though that’s not close to being accurate, and the organization is already forbidden by law to use public funds for abortions.
When voters, frustrated with the sluggish pace of economic recovery, tipped the U.S. House of Representatives to Republican control in last year’s elections, I doubt they expected the result would be budgetary gridlock brought on by issues, such as abortion rights, that have nothing to do with the federal budget. It’s a sad state of affairs.
FOLLOW-UP: Well, in a last-minute deal, the United States government looks as if it will avoid undergoing a shutdown that would be detrimental to a still struggling economy. Which doesn’t mean that the deal struck was a great one; taking billions of dollars out the economy and curtailing public investment programs isn’t going to do any good for the unemployment situation or the poor. And there are likely problems yet to come. Lots of impatient right-wing “culture warriors” in the Republican-controlled U.S. House may yet vote against the agreement, since it includes none of their cherished “riders,” and that means Democrats will be called on to pass the compromise over their heads--which is sure to further anger tea partiers, some of whom are already talking about mounting a primary election challenge against their own speaker. What a mess. And more such challenges lie ahead.
LISTEN UP: “Newstalgia: Headin’ for a Showdown in 1995,” by Gordonskene (Crooks & Liars).