Call it the Crisis Congress.
On March 31 the current funding for the nation’s authority to spend money on our transportation needs will run out. This means major roadway and transit improvement projects will be stalled for the foreseeable future and billions of dollars in potential job-creation will be jeopardized, according to transportation officials. Republicans, obsessed with their anti-government ideology, can’t even agree among themselves, and it is costing everyone else. Sadly, it ain’t the first time.
The Republican leadership could have decided to take up Senate legislation which would extend transportation funding for two years. Instead, the House had planned to consider a three-month extension that transportation advocates say could endanger capital improvement programs because transportation agencies won’t be able to plan long-term budgets. As of Wednesday morning they were no closer to a solution.
The last 400-plus days of House Republican rule have been like riding a bumpy road littered with shattered policies that ironically resemble broken down vehicles on a highway. The GOP’s transportation bill crisis suggests a trend that is just the latest in a long string of crises that have only damaged our economy and—to some degree—our standing in the world. Worse yet, their serial crises display a philosophy toward government that has nothing to do with actual governing. Instead of actually working to solve problems the GOP is pursuing an ideological agenda that is nothing less than legislative malpractice.
For example, GOP leaders allowed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to go into a partial shutdown at few months ago. That stunt cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion, prevented airport construction, and stalled the FAA’s plans to modernize airports for the entire month of August. In the state of Minnesota alone this failure held up more than 1,200 jobs and caused a loss of $36 million in airport construction. The reason? Republicans wanted to prevent Americans who work for the airline industry from organizing a union.
And who can forget the debt ceiling debacle the GOP caused last August? After decades of approving Presidents’ requests to increase the debt ceiling and pay incurred debts, Republicans tried to score ideological points by tying the vote to deficit reduction measures. This had never been done before and the cynical action brought America to the brink of defaulting on its debts. The result? Standard & Poors downgraded the United States’ credit rating citing its lack of political will to resolve its budget issues. It doesn’t seem like this downgrade will permanently hurt the US but guess who would have suffered from the high interest rates and other calamities of a credit default? Yes, the middle class.
No person and no party is 100 percent correct 100 percent of the time. But it’s clear that Democrats make honest attempts to resolve real, systemic problems. The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill is designed to prevent the Wall Street abuses that led to the 2008 housing crisis. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has given 100 million people more control over their health decisions by forcing insurance companies to cover people who have pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies also can’t cancel a person’s policy once they get sick.
No matter what one may think about the substance of the Dodd-Frank bill or the Affordable Care Act, these are honest attempts to solve real problems. Yet, we’ve gone from one crisis to another because the Republican caucus ignores problems that have deadlines, such as the debt ceiling and basic annual spending plans. Let’s not even discuss the long-term problems that will eventually have to be solved like long-term health care, our crumbling infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare. Their “solution” is to end Medicare, privatize social security, and ignore infrastructure, education, and long-term care.
The ugly open secret (ok, the “elephant in the room”) is that this ridiculous pseudo-governing strategy is prone to crisis. In fact, they have already laid another political landmine set to go off this fall by undercutting spending projections in the Budget Control Act. We could be heading for another potential government shutdown. In fact, each time we’ve had total or partial government shutdowns Republicans had decision-making authority.
If your philosophy says that government should be too small to matter or government doesn’t work, then you decide to ensure it doesn’t work. So there really is no surprise that under this particular brand of Republicanism we are the Crisis Congress.