This is just intermission

Across America this Friday morning, hundreds of thousands of people who’ve been locked out of jobs and denied paychecks for two weeks are back at work. National parks are open again, workplace and food safety inspectors are on patrol, mothers and mothers-to-be who qualify can get help to buy food, hospitals and universities are resuming federally-funded life-saving research, federal home and business loans are being processed. Most importantly, the nation’s credit is secure and the world economy has stepped back from the brink of disaster.

But nobody’s celebrating. Because open or not, our government is still broken and the sorry spectacle we’ve been watching and living through for quite awhile now isn’t over.

This is just intermission.

Next week, Congress will reconvene and the miserable tragicomedy will start again. The reckless minority that dragged us through the last few weeks is still bent on vandalizing our democracy; the jelly-kneed “leaders” and arcane congressional rules and customs that enable their mischief remain in place.

We can’t go on like this.

The polls tell us that Americans are fed up; it’s time for all of us to demonstrate it.

You can get contact information for your senators here, and for your congressman or congresswoman here. Pick up the phone, grab a pen and paper, open your email program and raise Hell.

If your representative and/or your senators opposed the shutdown from the start, if they consistently supported raising the debt ceiling, be sure to thank them. Then let them know you expect them to get busy persuading their less-enlightened colleagues to make sure this disaster isn’t repeated.

If your representatives were part of the reckless minority, raise your voice and register your disapproval — clearly. Let them know you’re watching and that you’ll be voting when the next election rolls around.

Wherever they stood in the shutdown/debt ceiling fight, tell your representatives you expect to see some changes in the way Washington works. Tell them: 

  • They can start by junking outmoded and undemocratic rules and customs like the filibuster, which lets a handful of senators stop debate and action on important bills. In the House, they can scrap the “Hastert rule,” an unwritten custom that for weeks permitted a few radical congressmen and women block the bi-partisan coalition that on Wednesday finally came together to reopen the government. As kids, we all learned about majority rule; it’s time adults started practicing it in Washington.
  • They can insist that whatever the government does, or doesn’t do, it MUST pay its bills. The debt ceiling fight wasn’t about increasing spending or raising taxes; it was about borrowing money government needs to pay bills it already has incurred. We expect Republicans and Democrats to disagree about taxes and spending, but we can’t tolerate anyone who tries to make our government a deadbeat.

Because the most effective messages generally are delivered in person, check with your lawmakers’ local offices to see if any are in town over the weekend. Congress recessed after Wednesday’s votes, so many members will be back home for town meetings or to raise money for the next campaign. If you can find them, talk to them.

The bottom line is that what happened in Washington over the last two weeks — and really over the last few years — can’t be allowed to happen again. Our government, our democracy, is too important.


Image courtesy of Project Vote Smart

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20 Responses to “This is just intermission”

  1. Charles H. Riggs, III October 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    This is tinkering around the edges. The real problem is that the current Speaker of the House made the decision to go along with a tiny handful of Tea Party crazies. That is intolerable; Boehner needs to be replaced.

    And there is a way to do that right now, this month. It’s called a Resolution of Vacancy.

    What’s that you say? That a majority in the House are Republicans and will never pass a Resolution of Vacancy? Quite true, as matters stand now. But here’s how it can happen.

    This kind of resolution consists of language that declares there is a vacancy in a particular House office, in this case the Speaker of the House. This sort of resolution is called a privileged resolution, because it MUST be voted on, regardless of whether the Speaker of the House wants it to be or not.

    Of course, at the moment, anyone introducing such a resolution would be immediately defeated: Republicans hold a majority of House seats and would vote it down.

    So you need to split the Republicans, and give some of them a reason to vote for it.

    Here’s how you do it.

    Minority Leader Pelosi goes to a group of moderate Republicans minus Boehner (minimum of 17 but as many as 22 have said they supported a clean CR and debt ceiling increase, so you could probably find more than the 17).

    She makes them the following offer: She will not run for Speaker. She commits her Democratic caucus to vote for whichever moderate Republican they choose to run for Speaker. She asks that they create a leadership team of candidates for Speaker, Majority Leader, Whip and so on. In return, she promises them committee assignments and/or even committee chairs if they play ball with her. Furthermore, on paper, the Republicans would still be the majority party. She proposes that the leadership team be bipartisan, though the Speaker and Majority Leader would be Republican. The Whip would probably be Democratic, and so forth and so on. In exchange, she gets their support for the Resolution of Vacancy.

    After securing the deal, she introduces the Resolution of Vacancy on the House floor. In her speech introducing the Resolution, she makes clear that this is NOT about partisan gain or personal gain. To prove that, she declares that she is not a candidate for Speaker.

    The vote occurs. All Democrats vote for the ROV. The two dozen or so moderate Republicans also vote for the ROV. The resolution passes.

    An election has to be held immediately for Speaker. The team chosen by the moderate Republicans declare their candidacy. The moderate Republicans along with all House Democrats vote for that team.

    The upshot: Effectively a bipartisan centrist moderate House leadership team has been installed, leaving the Tea Party on the outside looking in.

    I’m hoping someone will read this and decide it has merit and is worth suggesting to people in the loop who might be able to help make it happen.

    Or, of course, we could simply go through the same government shutdown/debt limit crap all over again in January and February, basically continuing to piss away completely President Obama’s second term.

    Wait, you say, what about winning the House back in 2014? Well, get real: The 2014 electorate will be whiter, older and more conservative than the 2012 electorate. The House of Representatives coming out of November 2014 will either be as conservative as the House is now or more conservative. Politically, the House will never be more friendly to Obama than right now; that’s reality, and we have to make the best of it.

    If you like the idea, thank you! Otherwise, have a nice day.

    • Very interesting.

      • Charles H. Riggs, III October 19, 2013 at 1:36 am

        Thank you!

        I’m looking for help to promote this idea. If anyone has a great hash tag we could use for that purpose, or has an idea about a great Facebook post, or knows about particular web sites on which we should post this idea to give it visibility and distribution, please let us know. Thank you again!

    • And if the ROV doesn’t fly, the Dems catch more heat for trying to split the Republican Party.

  2. This is important coming from Common Cause which has a tradition of bipartisanship. Although the actions advocated by this blog could be construed as partisan, I think they should be interpreted as the necessary response of a bipartisan organization to political craziness.

  3. Dale,
    This is not a fight. Taking on the Tea Party Paradigm of fear and aggression does not seem to me to be a way forward. The country needs to come together to face a dramatically changing and uncertain future. Fighting won’t help – speaking the truth about the dangers we and our families face today is vital. Thanks for listening.


    Why does the US borrow money from private interests (Banksters), thus creating debt? The answer is because of the 100 year old Federal Reserve Act.

    With sufficient public pressure, this could be changed so that the US could create and control a National currency, and spend this into the economy for the public welfare (physical and social infrastructure): interest free.

    HR2990, the National Emergency Employment Defense (NEED) Act would do this. Read the details here:

    This is a central financial plank of the Green Party; there is a precedent – Lincoln financed the Civil War with a National currency called “Greebacks”, which endured until the 1960’s; there is worldwide support among financial experts to change from money-as-debt to public money; We the People, though our government, should be in control of money as opposed to private interests.

  5. What I read on this site is NOT bipartisanship.
    What is going to tear down this country is OBAMACARE if it continues.
    Shutting down the country was planned by the president….
    Bombshell: White House planned shutdown
    ‘Republicans walked into a trap set up by Valerie Jarrett, Obama’

    You sound just like all the left-wing media.
    Being democratic does not mean being a democrat, which you sound like you are.
    How about upholding the CONSTITUTION?
    Is that what the president and most of the democrats do?
    You’d better do a little research about what the country was founded on.
    Nuff said!

  6. If this is balanced Bipartisanship, why do I Smell so much leberal retoric. Rome kepts itself afloat for a long time pandering to the “MOB” by giving them “Meat and Circus”.
    If the Government cannot balance its spending in peacetime what will help them in Crisis.

    If they cannot manage the VA and Medicare why would they be trusted for a larger system as in SOCIALISM.Obviously the 47% will vote for a raise

  7. Michael Brackney October 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    Yes, we can’t go on like this, but just raising our voices and telling our reps what they can do is not enough, so how about working to pass a law or constitutional amendment, whichever would be appropriate, that would penalize any congressperson who votes to shut down the government with immediate forfeiture of office?

    • Congress decides which bills to move forward. It’s almost impossible to pressure them to consider (much less, pass) a bill that works against their own best interests.

  8. It was about the ACA but it was not just about the ACA. Consider the kinds of demands they were making after finally getting it through their heads that they would get nowhere on that issue. Things that had nothing to do with the ACA. This is just the face of it. To my thinking what it really is is a power play. When the majority does not like your party’s policies, you pull all the tricks you can think of to force them down peoples’ throats.

  9. I love Common Cause. I also love Project Vote Smart. I can’t believe the PVS logo [person looking into Congress] of many, many years was so blatantly used – without any attribution, albeit for a good cause. Still, some recognition seems due.

  10. To Winnie Witt: “tear this country down – Obamacare” This is more of a Teaparty terminology and not a true Republican ideology. Our new health care LAW was not created by Pres. Obama but by congress who made it a law. Where is all your HATRED coming from? Yes the Tpty! Our forefathers would be appalled by this infestation of ignorant thinking.

  11. I support the proposals made by Riggs and Rudisill – neither would be easy but people of all political stripes are sick enough of the crisis governing to be more open to solutions. The first task should be to help rational Republicans wrench back control of the House from the extremists.

  12. AMENDMENT 14 OF THE CONSTITUTION , Section 4 says : “ The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, . . . shall not be questioned. “ Please note that “Obama Care” is a public debt authorized by law. The Republican refusal to fund this debt is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. It is also unconstitutional to put a cap on the Treasury so that it can not pay the public debts of the government.

  13. I was very disturbed during the past few weeks as I contacted elected officials to get their addresses or send an email containing my thoughts on their work when they replied “we’re sorry, but since you are not within our district we aren’t interested in hearing anything you have to say. In other words, you can’t vote for me so you are worthless”. I have never had return messages like that before. Do you think it was because they were receiving so much mail – or because they didn’t like the mail they were receiving?

  14. I agree with Mr. Riggs — this is tinkering at the edges.

    I live in Maryland’s 8th congressional district — Chris VanHollen’s district. There is no point in my calling him. There is nothing that I can do to change the dynamic even though I am disgusted, despondent and terribly concerned about the future.

    It’s curious that Winnie (above) believes that the Affordable Care Act is going to “tear the country apart.” It is think like this that leads us all to believe that the situation is hopeless because these statements are not based in fact.

    My husband and I have been paying $2000 per month for years for health insurace. This is destroying us. With the ACA, we expect to be able to reduce this by almost half — without subsidies.

    I would ask Winnie to have some empathy for her fellow Americans who, through no fault of their own, are being destroyed.


  15. Since Clinton, these showdowns have been met by throwing poor people off the cliff. We wiped out welfare aid this way, and began dismantling Social Security from the bottom up, starting with the disabled. Well, we’re running out of poor people to throw off the cliff. Who does the middle class want to sacrifice next?

  16. Here is one perspective on what we are dealing with and what needs to be done.