The problem with the right-wing ideologues in the Republican Party in Congress is that they stick by their hard-line and eschew any compromise, even when the best interests of their country and even the very stability of government are put at risk. Now their intransigence over federal funding for Planned Parenthood threatens to shut down the government.
The first casualty of this ideological battle has already been seen. House Speaker John Boehner, a veteran of 24 years in Congress, a conservative by any measure, has resigned his post effective at October’s end. Boehner had found it more and more difficult to manage the tea party element in his caucus, though the tea party nationwide is a minority, albeit a vocal one. The speaker had become a focal point and a target within the party to which he has been loyal for decades.
His fear: that next week, the government will shut down because of a confrontation over federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the women’s health organization. The issue, of course, is the organization’s providing of abortion, although Planned Parenthood reports abortion represents only 3 percent of its spending, and no federal money can go for abortion anyway. Planned Parenthood provides an array of health care services and advice for women, from contraception to the treatment of sexually transmitted disease to health checkups.
But the most conservative Republicans focus exclusively on the abortion issue, and they’re threatening to not pass a government funding bill by next week, which would force the doors to close. Republicans shut down the government in October 2013 over a confrontation involving the Affordable Care Act. It lasted two weeks.
A shutdown would roil the national economy. It would hurt the United States’ economic stability in the global marketplace as well.
And, as it has in the past, it would hurt Republicans in elections this year and next. Polls after the last shutdown, and after two shutdowns during the Clinton administration, showed the public blamed stubborn Republicans for their failure to work toward compromise.
Boehner has been around long enough to understand those consequences, and he has been working to avoid a shutdown. But he knows well, from painful experience, the power of ideology among conservative Republicans who seem to care more about making their point than they do about governing. When they don’t care about consequences, they don’t care about compromise.
More than the livelihoods of government workers will be affected if there is another shutdown. The economy will slow; services people take for granted will be curtailed; the nation’s standing in the world will suffer a setback.
And the public will lose even more confidence in the government. Approval ratings for Congress last month, in a Gallup survey, were around 15 percent. This has been the case for some time, as people across the political spectrum have watched Democrats and Republicans battle with each other over political disputes that have little to do, seemingly, with helping average Americans build better lives.