by Dru Hunsaker
To pass or not to pass? This is the question that looms over Congress as Democrats and Republicans arm themselves with red pens and partisan slogans, drawing battle lines for a fight that may have serious consequences for the American people.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, is quite possibly one of the least understood pieces of legislation to pass through Congress in years, which is highly ironic considering just how many people the law will affect if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and fellow Democrats successfully shut down the Republican attempt to defund the program.The Bill was originally intended to provide universal healthcare for American citizens but has drawn serious criticism from several groups, including many religious organizations who refuse to provide the contraception that the bill mandates because of religious beliefs, and others who cry out that the law is unconstitutional because it forces citizens to have health insurance. While many hoped that the bill would help those that are struggling and allow them affordable health care, some worry that flaws in the planning may turn it into an extremely costly government program that could throw additional strain on the already struggling middle class and further the growing debt.
Other criticism comes from small business owners, many of whom insist that they cannot afford to provide that kind of insurance for all of their employees, and have instead switched some full-time workers to part-time so that they do not have to provide them employee benefits. Others have been laid off and in the face of such economic hardship, to many, this has been a bitter pill to swallow.
Almost since its passing, Republicans in the House and the Senate have been working to shut down the program, and recently have changed tactics. Although enactment of the law was delayed for a year to resolve some remaining issues, its due date is fast approaching and the Republicans are scrambling to pass a bill that would create the budget for the year while defunding Obamacare. However, this is much easier said than done.
Earlier this month, Ted Cruz (R) of Texas led a so-called “filibuster” on the floor of the Senate to protest funding Obamacare, joining with some other Tea Party Conservatives who refuse to budge on defunding the ACA. Despite mounting pressure, Congress has yet to come to a resolution, with neither party willing to compromise. Instead, they play an ever-revolving game of cat and mouse, alternately approving and killing bills so that no one can accomplish anything. Meanwhile, they are completely secure in their paychecks, exempt from pay cuts and Obamacare, free to decide the fate of a nation with whom many of them have no empathy.
Now, only a few hours away from midnight, the government faces imminent shutdown as party politics overshadow the need for some semblance of fiscal security, and Congress plays chicken with itself. It seems that they are forgetting the hundreds of thousands of government employees who will be furloughed if the shutdown takes place, creating greater disarray in a time when the unemployment rate has been stubbornly refusing to dip much lower.
One can only hope that such an event will shock the American people into reconsidering their choices when Senate and House election times roll around. A Congress that cannot pass a budget should not be allowed to determine the fate of the country. Perhaps they should consider the words of Charles Dickens and allow their terms in Congress to expire. It would be a far, far better thing that they do, than they have ever done.