Things we have learned from the government shutdown

Posted Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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greene Washington’s efforts to resolve the issues that led to the shutdown remain unfinished. Until next year’s elections, Obamacare, the nation’s crippling debt and much more are going to dominate campaigns across the country.

Seeing his approval rating plunging to a mere 37 percent, the president may now see that voters expect him to recognize their decision to put Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives — and to work with them, especially on his signature achievement that brings them so many concerns.

Meanwhile, we’ve actually learned some things from this that we wouldn’t have noticed had conservatives in Congress not forced them into full view.

First, we have been reminded of those infamous words from the then-speaker of the House answering questions about the massive Affordable Care Act as it was passing through Congress without a single Republican vote. Nancy Pelosi said this:

“We have to pass it to find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy.”

Well, it did become the law of the land, but the fog only got thicker. Importantly, her declaration left us with definite expectations that there were things to be revealed that would be worked out later.

That’s precisely what congressional Republicans have been trying to do. In the process we’ve discovered some of what Pelosi was talking about.

For example, if you are part of a religion opposed to acceptance of benefits from health insurance, or an undocumented immigrant, or incarcerated, or a member of an Indian tribe, or participating in Medicare, Medicaid or an employer’s plan, or if the government believes you can’t afford health insurance, then you can just ignore all this debate.

We learn that President Obama has provided revisions, modifications and extensions of time for corporate friends, government entities, Congress and labor unions but refuses to consider doing the same for individuals and their families.

Then there is the sticker shock for many who have somehow been able to work their way through the website that does more crashing and freezing than anything else (“train wreck” comes to mind). The “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act has many convinced its very name is a lie.

Speaking of lying, that’s what Jon Stewart of The Daily Show said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was doing with her non-responses to his questions about why ordinary citizens couldn’t get the same one-year delay already granted to big businesses.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Nancy Pelosi was holding forth with CBS reporters. In a rare departure from that network’s usual practice of not penetrating the Democrats’ daily talking points, they pressed her about the spiteful debate over issues surrounding the shutdown.

They wanted to know if she thought her calling the Republicans “arsonists” or her counterpart in the Senate describing them as “anarchists” was a good way to find a meeting of the minds.

Never providing any further insight into the high calling of legislative compromise, Pelosi instead accused the Republicans of wanting to “eliminate all EPA rules for clean air, clean water and the rest.”

Such a completely off-topic, irrational and totally false accusation helps explain why, when asked by Rasmussen pollsters, just three out of 10 voters believe the nation’s healthcare system will get better with Obamacare.

Pelosi will be pleased to know that her fellow Americans will keep trying to “find out what is in it.”

With their own constitutional authority, the Republican majority in the House reminds her and the president of their often-repeated refrain that elections have consequences.

The next one for Congress is just a little more than a year away.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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