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They’re showing reruns on Capitol Hill. The Democrat-led Senate is scrambling to approve yet another spending bill. Congress, at the very least, needs to send a continuing resolution to the White House for a signature or the federal government will shut down.
As the Beltway media has long told us, a government shutdown is the worst calamity that can befall humanity. The last one occurred way back in 2013, and America devolved into a Mad Max-style hellscape with neo-primitive warlords roaming the countryside, imposing their cruel will through violence and the threat of further anarchy. Or maybe a few national parks were temporarily closed; my memory’s a bit fuzzy.
Despite the grave stakes to civil order, crazed ideologues are again threatening to vote against a new spending bill for partisan reasons. But this time it isn’t Sen. Ted Cruz or “wacko birds” flying among House Republicans. Instead it’s the Democrats.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) is rallying progressive lawmakers to sink the bill due to a few mild compromises with the GOP. Liberals’ sudden turnabout on the issue of government shutdowns is quite extraordinary, especially considering the heated rhetoric Warren, et al., used just last year.
Sen. Warren blasted a threatened GOP shutdown in a floor speech on Sept. 30, 2013:
In effect, the Republicans are trying to take the government and the economy hostage, threatening serious damage to both unless the President agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act…
Now, we are just hours from the government running out of money. We haven’t fixed the sequester because of all the obstruction. We haven’t finished a budget because of all the obstruction. We haven’t even passed a single appropriations bill because of all that obstruction.
The least we can do — the bare minimum that we can do — would be to pass a continuing resolution to keep the doors open and the lights on. We could ensure that over a million federal workers aren’t simply sent home for no reason. We could avoid a government shutdown.
But the Republicans have refused to do even that. They have continued to threaten to shutter the government unless the President agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act. The Senate rejected that position — twice — yet the Republican response has been to continue to threaten to shut the government down.
These threats may continue, but they are not working. And they will never work. Because this is democracy. And in a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t otherwise win their fights through elections, can’t win their fights in Congress, can’t win their fights for the Presidency, and can’t win their fights in the courts. For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left — a last grasp of those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy.
On Oct. 3, 2013, she again took to the Senate floor angrier than before:
The government shutdown is throwing a major wrench into a fragile economic recovery. Nearly a million federal employees are sitting at home for no reason, and other public servants are working but not earning a paycheck. Cancer patients are being turned away from clinical trials at the NIH. Veterans’ benefits are at risk. Basic nutrition services for pregnant women and new moms will be disrupted. Small businesses won’t be able to get federal loan guarantees…
The anarchy gang in the House can dump on their make-believe version of government all they want, but when the real government fails to live up to the high expectations we have all set for it, politicians in both parties rush to outrage. Why? Because the American people know that government can work and believe government should work…
The attacks on government are abstract, but the consequences of this shutdown are real: less accountability for cheaters and rule-breakers, less opportunity for our children, cracks in the foundations that businesses need to succeed, and a tilted playing field that limits opportunities for all of our people…
Right now, right at this moment, if we look closely, we will see that we are reaffirming it once again. It is not an accident that the desire to shut down government is confined to one extremist faction of one political party of one chamber of Congress of one branch of government. It is not an accident that this extremist faction must resort to absurd hostage tactics–threats to turn off the government, threats to default on our debt, threats to tank the economy–to force their views on everyone else. It is not an accident that this faction is doing everything in its power to make government appear dysfunctional.
Once the shutdown was resolved, Sen. Warren still fumed at the GOP’s dangerous tactics in an email to supporters:
Yes, we prevented an economic catastrophe that would have put a huge hole in our fragile economic recovery. But the reason we were in this mess in the first place is that a reckless faction in Congress took the government and the economy hostage for no good purpose and to no productive end.
According to the S&P index, the government shutdown had delivered a powerful blow to the U.S. economy. By their estimates, $24 billion has been flushed down the drain for a completely unnecessary political stunt.
$24 billion dollars. How many children could have been back in Head Start classes? How many seniors could have had a hot lunch through Meals on Wheels? How many scientists could have gotten their research funded? How many bridges could have been repaired and trains upgraded?
…It’s time for the hostage taking to end. It’s time for every one of us to say, “No more.”
No more, Sen. Warren. No more.