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Over Easy: Government shutdown crisis continues without a solution

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Good morning:

Crane Station asked me to post this article for Over Easy. She will be back later in the day. I will host the thread until she returns.

Eggs Over Easy

Join us and chat about the shutdown, or anything.

I have been up all night composing this article about the failure of our Congress to increase our government’s debt limit. I conclude that the so-called financial crisis is not a real crisis and the Tea Party Republicans are financial terrorists generally committed to destroying our government and specifically committed to destroying Obamacare by blocking efforts to increase the deficit to fund it.

I followed events all day yesterday expecting Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell would reach an agreement late yesterday or today and the Senate would pass a bill substantially consistent with that agreement.

That did not happen because the House Republicans decided to meet and resume their effort to reach an agreement, an act that Reid and McConnell interpreted as a rejection of their efforts. Therefore, they decided to stop their effort.

The 271 House Republicans spent most of the day attempting to reach an agreement but ultimately could not agree to any of the bills under consideration. They finally gave up and cancelled a scheduled vote.

The New York Times described what happened.

By Tuesday afternoon, House Republican leaders were back with a new proposal to fund the government through Dec. 15, extend the debt ceiling into February and deprive not only lawmakers but all their staff members of employer assistance to buy their health care. By extending that provision to staff members, Republican leaders hoped to appeal to its far-right flank, but it angered more moderate Republicans and was not enough for the conservative hard core.

Complicating the speaker’s task, Heritage Action, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s political arm, which wields great influence with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party, opposed the plan.

“I think there’s always hope there can be a final package I can vote on, but this is not the one,” said Representative Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, as he and two other Tea Party conservatives left the speaker’s office.

The major stumbling point preventing the Republicans from agreeing on a proposal was a disagreement regarding whether lawmakers and their staff members should pay the full cost of their health insurance premiums, unlike most workers at American companies, and how to restrict the administration from using flexibility to extend the debt limit beyond a fixed deadline.

Of course, this disagreement actually has nothing to do with the crisis, which is about raising the $16.7 trillion government debt limit. According to the Treasury Department, the federal government has approximately $35 billion in cash on hand and “expects to run out of “extraordinary measures” to keep on paying all of the government’s bills on Thursday, at which point outgoing payments might exceed that cash, plus any revenues, on any day going forward.”

After the House Republicans abandoned their effort to agree on a proposal, Harry Reid and Mitch McDonnell resumed their effort to agree on a bill to present to the Senate for a vote. A spokesperson for majority leader Reid announced that he was optimistic that he and Senator McConnell would soon reach an agreement. That has not happened as of 6 am, Central Daylight Time.

According to the National Journal,

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Senators were discussing a deal that would fund the government until January 15 and raise the debt limit until February 7. It would also create a bicameral conference to come to a long-term tax and spending plan, with a report due by December 13. The proposal would only touch Obamacare at the margins: tightening income-verification standards for people who receive subsidies and a possible one-year delay of the reinsurance tax, which is paid by employers.

Assuming they do reach an agreement and the Senate passes it, the House must still approve it.

Unless many of the Republicans in the House vote for the Senate bill, there is no way that the House will pass it.

I believe the goal of the Tea Party Republicans is to shut down the federal government indefinitely. I do not believe they are negotiating in good faith and I predict Thursday will come and go without an agreement to raise the debt limit. According to Mother Jones, for example, Tea Party Republicans were pushing to add an anti-abortion birth-control provision to the debt ceiling deal. The provision would permit all private sector employers who pay for employee health insurance to refuse to cover the cost of birth control.

Injecting a contentious irrelevant issue at the last minute into a bitter debate on increasing the debt ceiling to avoid forcing the government to default on its financial obligations only serves to derail legitimate debate. I consider it to be an act of financial terrorism.

Assuming the Congress fails to pass a bill increasing the debt limit, President Obama should end the shutdown, order all federal employees back to work, and direct the Treasury to pay all of its financial obligations when they come due. This would include issuing checks to government employees with full backpay.

The United States does not have to borrow money because it issues its own currency and the dollar is the world’s preferred currency. Issuing new currency does not require printing new money. It can be accomplished by the Federal Reserve throwing a few switches to credit the Treasury.

In fact, the debt-limit statute is unnecessary and should be abolished. With the exception of Denmark, the United States is the only nation in the world with such a statute. There is a good reason why other nations do not have such a statute.

Nations create budgets for each fiscal year and when they do, they consider national debt as well as the amount budgeted. When our Congress passes a budget, it should be presumed to have authorized paying for everything in the budget. That is the procedure followed by every other nation, except Denmark.

Put another way, the Congress should not be permitted to shut down the federal government because it refuses to increase the nation’s debt to fund the federal budget that it passed. For example, Congress should not be permitted to use the debt limit statute to prevent funding Obamacare, a program that Congress considered and approved.

That is why the Congress has routinely approved every request to increase the national debt for many years with the notable exception of the Republicans once during the Clinton administration and again during the Obama administration.

It is long past time to call-out the Tea Party Republicans for what they are: a group of financial terrorists committed to destroying our national government.

Photo by JeffreyW released under a Creative Commons license.

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Frederick Leatherman

Frederick Leatherman

I am a former law professor and felony criminal defense lawyer who practiced in state and federal courts for 30 years specializing in death penalty cases, forensics, and drug cases.

I taught criminal law, criminal procedure, law and forensics, and trial advocacy for three years after retiring from my law practice.

I also co-founded Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle and recruited 40 lawyers who agreed to work pro bono, assisted by law students, representing 17 innocent men and women wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing their children in the notorious Wenatchee Sex Ring witch-hunt prosecutions during the mid 90s. All 17 were freed from imprisonment.