To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Extortion is an ugly word, and it has no place in a civil society based on a 226-year-old Constitution. But extortion (aka blackmail) is exactly what Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner and his tea party are engaging in right now.
They couldn’t prevent Barack Obama from being re-elected. They couldn’t block passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and haven’t been able to defund it, and they felt betrayed when their supposedly reliably conservative Supreme Court validated it. So, how do these representatives of the world’s oldest democracy respond? By shutting down government.
So far it’s cost some 800,000 Americans their weekly paychecks. And there’s no sign that things will improve any time soon. Very simply, tea party Republicans are trying to accomplish through extortion what they couldn’t win at the ballot box. It’s akin to a military coup in a Banana Republic, and President Obama knows it cannot stand.
Leading this coup is Speaker John Boehner. He knows there are enough Democrats and non-tea party Republicans in the U.S. House to pass a "clean" bill to fund government operations. That is, a bill that funds the government with no extraneous clauses gutting the ACA, abortion rights, or anything else on the tea party’s Christmas list. But Boehner won’t bring such a bill to the floor for a vote.
The reason is both simple and odious: Boehner fears for his job as speaker: If he allows a vote on a clean bill, he could lose his speakership. To him the 800,000 furloughed federal workers are just the cost of retaining his speakership.
Contrast Boehner with Colorado state Senate President John Morse, who along with another state senator lost a recall election because of their support for gun control. "I said at the time if it costs me my political career, so be it," Morse said. "That’s nothing compared to what the families of [gun violence] victims go through every single day. We did the right thing."
Clearly, Boehner is not about to do the right thing, and that truly is cause for concern. This battle over funding government operations is just a dress rehearsal for the main show -- the coming crisis over raising the debt ceiling. If Boehner fails to allow a vote to authorize the government to borrow funds to pay the bills his Congress has already incurred, there will be far more than 800,000 unemployed, and "the full faith and credit of the United States of America" will be irreparably damaged.
We stand by President Obama in rejecting tea party Republican extortion, and we encourage everyone who believes in the rule of law to stand with us.
The writer is chair of Berkshire Brigades, the countywide Democratic organization.