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My Message To The GOP Majority In Congress: Do Your Job!

The 115th Congress has been one of the least productive Congresses in U.S. history despite the fact the GOP controls both Houses and the executive branch. At this point in their presidencies, Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama had all notched major legislative victories. Thus far, Trump has no significant legislative accomplishments.

The biggest failure so far from the unified GOP government has been their failure to keep their seven year old promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with something better. The various GOP health care bills failed due to massive public opposition, divisions within the GOP and inept leadership from Trump. The fundamental reason why Trump Care has failed to pass is because all of the GOP health care bills were simply awful pieces of legislation.

Despite that failure, Trump and the Republicans can bring back Trump Care at anytime if they believe they have the votes to pass it. This fight may not be over. At the same time, the GOP has ambitious plans to blow up the deficit with tax cuts favoring the wealthy and an infrastructure scheme based upon — you guessed it — tax cuts for the wealthy and special interests.

Before the GOP can tackle this ambitious agenda, they must first take care of some basic housekeeping measures. The government runs out of money at the end of September and the debt ceiling must be raised by September 29. Our less than hard working Republican members of Congress have only scheduled 12 legislative work days before the money runs out and they still don’t have a plan to keep the lights on.

Republican efforts to fund the government have run into an unforeseen obstacle — Trump has threatened to shutdown the government unless the funding bill has money for his border wall with Mexico. The executive branch shutting down the government would be unprecedented and demonstrates once again how Trump is simply not suited to be the President of the most powerful country in the world. In the past, it was the Republicans in Congress who shutdown the government during the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

The most recent government shutdown was in 2013 when the Republicans intentionally inflicted harm upon the American people in a last ditch effort to halt the implementation of the ACA. This shutdown cost the economy $24 billion and 120,000 jobs. We shouldn’t allow the voters to forget that Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry and Smith all supported the 2013 shutdown. Then candidate Ben Sasse was so extreme that he even opposed the legislation that ultimately ended this disastrous shutdown.

A refusal by the Republicans in Congress to raise the debt ceiling is even a bigger threat to the economy than another government shutdown. A default on the obligations of the U.S. could create a financial crisis as serious as the one we went through in 2008–09 after the collapse of Lehmann Brothers. Defaulting on the financial obligations of the U.S. is so radical that even the GOP aligned U.S. Chamber of Commerce has consistently come out against it in the past. In 2013, U.S. Chamber President Thomas Donohue said: “It is insane not to raise the debt ceiling.”

Unfortunately, there is some confusion about what raising the debt ceiling means and the Republicans are exacerbating the problem by misrepresenting what it’s really about. As Democrats we need to get our message out about the debt ceiling and the disastrous consequences for the economy if the GOP refuses to increase it.

Just what is raising the debt ceiling? This is a much misunderstood and fairly routine (until recently) procedure. Former President Bill Clinton explained it the following way: “The reason that raising the debt limit is so unpopular is that people think you’re voting to keep [increasing] deficit spending, instead of voting to honor obligations that were already incurred.” In other words, raising the debt ceiling isn’t like we’re raising the nation’s credit limit. Instead, it’s like the credit card bill that the nation has just received in the mail. We need to pay it in order to maintain the full faith and credit of the U.S. Failure to pay our nation’s bills by raising the debt ceiling would cause the rest of the world to lose confidence in our nation’s ability to meet its obligations, increase everybody’s interest rates, tank the stock market and send the world economy into another recession.

Despite the potentially disastrous consequence of the U.S. stiffing it’s creditors, the radicals in the so-called House Freedom caucus have said they won’t vote for an increase in the debt ceiling unless it is coupled with deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. At the same time, the Trump Administration has come out for an increase in the debt ceiling without any strings attached.

At the present time, House Speaker Ryan hasn’t taken a position on the debt ceiling and has no plan. It will take a combination of votes from moderate Republicans and the Democrats to pass a clean debt ceiling increase. Will Ryan have the courage to work with the Democrats?

The last time the debt ceiling was increased in early 2016, then Speaker Boehner relied upon Democratic votes but he lost his job over it. Boehner resigned from the Congress because the radicals in the House GOP caucus were enraged and he lacked the votes to continue on as Speaker. Boehner would have been ousted as Speaker. Will Ryan stand up to the radicals or will he prioritize his job over the well being of the U.S.?

As activists, we should call our members of Congress and urge them to end their undeserved vacation as soon as possible and to get back to work for the American people in Washington. Please tell them to do the responsible thing and fund the government and raise the debt ceiling as soon as possible and with no strings attached. The Republicans in Congress shouldn’t be playing political games with the economy.

Going forward, we must flip the House in 2018 and restore a Democratic majority. It is obvious that the Republicans in Congress are unfit to govern and a danger to the country. I would urge all of you to do everything you can to assist our candidates in 2018. Thank you for all that you do!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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