More than 800,000 employees of the federal government are on furlough because Republicans and Democrats in Congress have failed to agree on a budget — even a stop-gap one.
And while many families today are trying to figure out how to make ends meet before they get a paycheck, the 535 senators and representatives are still drawing their salaries — at a cost of $10,583.85 per hour to taxpayers.
This, while hundreds of congressional staffers were sent home, packs of tourists were turned away at the Capitol, and constituent services in many offices ground to a halt, as the Associated Press portrayed the shutdown that began Tuesday.
Senators and House members are paid $174,000 a year; a handful of leaders make up to $20,000 more.
It is true that lawmakers can’t withhold their own pay even if they want to, but they could show unity with those whose lives they’ve disrupted by placing their salaries in escrow until the shutdown is over.
That would serve as an incentive for Republicans to stop gambling with the nation’s economic stability. Their insistence that any spending plan include the defunding or delay of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — is the reason that nonessential government services are not available today.
A key provision in Obamacare (the online insurance marketplace) went into effect Tuesday, and more than 1 million Americans visited the site. As the kinks in the computer programs are worked out, more people will access the marketplace to find the insurance that best suits their needs.
And as the numbers grow, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to keep arguing that Obamacare is un-American and is doomed to fail.
Indeed, the GOP already has tried every way possible to deep six President Obama’s signature accomplishment — giving the 40 million Americans without health insurance the opportunity to be covered at affordable rates.
Republicans failed to prevent Obama’s re-election and to convince the Supreme Court that the ACA is unconstitutional. So now, they’re holding the nation’s economic well-being hostage.
It won’t work. That’s the opinion not only of Democrats, but of key Republican senators and representatives, including the party’s elder statesman, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
McCain, as the party’s standard bearer in the 2008 presidential election, was described by Republicans as the adult in the race compared with Obama, who was a freshman senator when he won the Democratic nomination. Now, however, many of the same Republicans are treating McCain as a senile old man.
Why? Because he told Republicans on Capitol Hill, especially those in the House, that they’re on a fool’s errand by including the defunding of Obamacare in any measure to keep the federal government operating.
It remains to be seen whether the adults in the Republican ranks on Capitol Hill will succeed in getting the children in line.
If the shutdown of the federal government is cause for concern, the threats by the right-wingers in Congress not to raise the debt ceiling is scary.
The global economy could go into a tailspin if the United States is unable to pay the bills it already has racked up.
It’s time for House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to allow members to vote on a clean bill to temporarily fund the government and another to raise the debt limit.