Friday, November 16 , 2018, 8:30 am | Fair 55º


Susan Estrich: House Republicans Throw Temper Tantrum over Obamacare

If the House Republicans were children, they'd surely be getting a "timeout."

Are they really going to close down the government in a futile attempt to undo Obamacare? Are they really willing to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to score political points?

Symbolic votes to repeal Obamacare — and the House of Representatives has had plenty of them — are, at worst, a waste of time that might be better spent addressing the real problems Americans face. But what House Republicans are now planning goes beyond symbolism. Now, it's not just the failure to address real problems that is at issue. If they have their way and close down the government to make a point, they will actually be hurting people.

Shame on them.

I'll be OK. I don't depend on Social Security and Medicare. I'm not supporting my family with a paycheck from the government. As a Democrat, I suppose I could just sit back and watch House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, lead a kamikaze mission that will, in the end, give Democrats a better chance to take back the House in the midterm elections.

But too many people will pay for this too dearly to consider this solely from a political perspective.

Hurting people who are already hurting is not just bad politics. It's wrong.

If House Republicans hate Obamacare that much, then they should get out there and elect more Republicans — and a Republican president. In the meantime, they should stop playing games and throwing temper tantrums. You don't play "chicken" with people's lives.

Boehner is, apparently, not the one who came up with this stupid plan.

Maybe he's just smart enough to remember what happened to Newt Gingrich when he shut down the government. Boehner, as far as I know, is not looking for a job on CNN.

Or maybe he understands that closing down the government and threatening default on our obligations could undermine the economy and cause real hardship for people.

Boehner's problem is not that he came up with a bad idea, but that he has decided to go along with the ideological extremists in his own party who did.

The extremists who are leading the charge down the rabbit hole come from overwhelmingly Republican districts. Safe seats. The way district lines are drawn, most incumbents have more to fear from primary challenges than from general elections. On the Democratic side, it's less of an issue because we don't have an organized, ideologically motivated extreme ready to fund primary challenges. On the Republican side, it's an issue.

Is Boehner really such a cowardly lion? Will enough Republicans who know better go along with this dangerous strategy in order to stave off primary challenges from their own party?

In every politician's life, there are moments when you have to decide what is worth risking your seat over.

This is such a moment for Boehner and his colleagues. Standing up to your opponents is easy. Standing up to powerful people in your own party is risky. It could cost Boehner his job.

Boehner isn't just the speaker of the Tea Party — but that's precisely what he's acting like. In the short run, it may win him points on the right. But they will come at the expense of the most vulnerable people in our country.

If you wonder why so many people think so little of Congress, why decent and honorable people don't want to hold elective office, this is why.

When children throw temper tantrums, books on childrearing tell you to call a "timeout."

When politicians behave like out-of-control children, the man who is supposed to be their leader needs to step up and lead, not dive headfirst into the sandbox.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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