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.
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.