It may serve as some immediate reassurance to deride what may be about to happen on Tuesday in Washington as merely another “Inside the Beltway,” dysfunctional federal government story with little local import or impact for us.
But that would be a false comfort.
What’s more, there’s a New York congressional delegation irresponsibly lending fuel to this particularly dangerous manifestation of that dysfunction.
The state’s Republican congressmen, including local Rep. Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook), are aiding and abetting a thoroughly futile, irresponsible and dangerous attempt to unconstitutionally nullify a law passed by Congress, signed by the president and ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.
Whatever one thinks about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is an inarguable fact that there is nothing unconstitutional about its content or the process of its passage. The bill was voted on and passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president, which is precisely how a bill becomes law under the Constitution.
Those who disagree with the legislation and fail to prevail in the legislative or executive branches still get to raise questions about its constitutionality in the judiciary. Those questions were settled when the Supreme Court ruled the legislation constitutional, with a caveat that preserved for individual states the dubious right to deny the expansion of Medicaid to their indigent citizens.
A law is a law
Therefore, the ACA is law and is in keeping with the principles enunciated in the Constitution. There is no debate left on that score.
Nevertheless, those who opposed the law are not bound to relinquish their beliefs. They are free to continue to try and convince others to repeal the law or amend it more to their liking.
However, they are bound to comply with the law. This is especially true of our elected representatives, who take an oath to this effect.
In spite of this obligation, there is a small, radical faction of nominal Republicans in Congress attempting to do through nullification and blackmail what they couldn’t and still can’t accomplish via constitutional means.
They are threatening to provoke a wholesale shutdown of the federal government or cause the United States of America to default on its debt if the rest of Congress and the president do not agree to their demands to refrain from enforcing the law.
These opponents call themselves “constitutional conservatives” and offer, as proof of the virtuous nature of their tactics, public polling that shows a majority of Americans does not support the Affordable Care Act.
This is disingenuous, to use a kinder term than the effort deserves. To fail to respect the constitutional process and then attempt to clothe oneself in that document is an act of hypocrisy that only the most blindly self-righteous can fail to acknowledge.
Furthermore, nearly a third of those expressing opposition to the ACA do so because they feel it does not go far enough! This makes those against universal health insurance on principle a distinct minority.
Nothing justifies the irreparable harm that will be done to federal civil servants, the most vulnerable segments of our citizenry and the nation at large by shuttering the federal government in what amounts to a juvenile fit of pique. And forcing a government default on debt payments already incurred and owed is more than just irresponsible. It is an act of economic terrorism that even the most Machiavellian of intentions cannot justify.
For those who think this is hyperbole, watch what happens to the economic stability and financial security of your lives if the United States is no longer trusted by international creditors to meet its obligations.
Indeed, just the suggestion of default can cause interest rates to increase, thereby expanding the national debt burden about which these self-styled “constitutional conservatives” express so much concern.
Even holding an honest belief that we are already on the road to economic ruin cannot justify turning that mere conjecture into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As unrepresentative as it is cynical, New York’s Republican delegation (minus one who missed the vote) is complicit in advancing the tiny Tea Party Caucus’ nullification effort. Neither has any member publicly rejected that faction’s disastrous back-up plan to force a default on federal debt. That Rep. Gibson’s expressed position is a bit more nuanced does nothing to lessen the impending detrimental impact to his own constituents.
It’s unrepresentative because a majority of New Yorkers support the ACA and want to see it implemented. The exchanges are up and operating and early reports indicate significant reductions in premiums for individual enrollees. Gibson and his Republican colleagues are working at cross-purposes with their own state’s officials.
It’s cynical because there is zero chance that this ploy will achieve the result sought. Furthermore, it’s a suicide mission that outrageously and irresponsibly carries all of us along as unwilling and unwitting hostages.
Why the New York Republican delegation feels it owes something to the Tea Party Caucus, which is composed of members hostile to New York’s interests — including some that worked mightily to deny aid to storm victims in this state — is an enigma.
But if they lack — like their feckless and moribund Speaker — even the marginal courage it would take to buck this radically irresponsible faction numbering less than 10 percent of House seats, in favor of doing what benefits their own state and pleases their own constituents, one wonders what spurred them to run for office in the first place.
John Figliozzi lives in Halfmoon and is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section.