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Published September 19 2013

Forum editorial: Chamber spanks US House

No less than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is spanking U.S. House Republicans for threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get their way regarding defunding and/or delaying the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Tea party types and others in the Republican majority said they will refuse to approve raising the nation’s debt ceiling or pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund government unless linked to undermining Obamacare.

In a strongly worded letter, the Chamber urged House members to decouple the debt ceiling/CR from the health care law, insisting that Congress responsibly raise the debt ceiling “and then return to work on these other vital issues,” such as the ACA.

The nation’s largest business organization understands the risks to the economy if a government shutdown is merely threatened. Moreover, the Chamber and other business groups are in the midst of a fragile economic recovery that could be derailed by a government shutdown.

Keep in mind, the U.S. Chamber is no fan of the president; most of its members do not like most of Obamacare’s mandates. The uncertainty caused by the complexity and uneven application of provisions of the ACA are slowing job growth, business investment and are a drag on the economy. But, as the Chamber emphasized, linking the debt ceiling and CR to the ACA can make matters worse.

Additionally, it is curious that the party alleged to be the party of fiscal responsibility would attempt to cripple the nation’s ability to pay its bills. The debt ceiling is not about additional federal spending. It’s a mechanism to pay the bills for appropriations already approved by a Congress of which the Republican-controlled House is part. It is the height of irresponsibility to put the good faith and credit of the nation at risk every few months because of lock-step adherence to a flawed ideology that has no purchase outside of a small cabal in the U.S. House.

Finally, the leverage House Republicans think they have with the debt ceiling is illusory. If, in the unlikely circumstance a CR passes that links Obamacare to the debt ceiling, the president will veto it, which would mean a government shutdown. History is instructive: Republicans, not the president, will be blamed when Social Security checks aren’t processed, when veterans facilities close, when national parks lock the gates, when all other nondefense federal services dry up. Every recent poll finds Americans will drop the hammer on Republicans, as they did as far back as 1994 when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich pulled a similar stunt to challenge President Bill Clinton’s budget blueprint.

Thoughtful Americans can only hope the House majority pays attention to responsible voices, such as the U.S. Chamber, when it comes to sensible, pragmatic economic policy.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.