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Party Politics

Elizabeth Warren on the Government Shutdown

Senator Warren, speaking before Monday’s shutdown:

I come to the floor today in a state of disbelief. With millions of people out of work, with an economic recovery still far too fragile, with students and families being crushed by student loan debt, with millions of seniors desperate for their chance at one hot meal a day with meals on wheels, and million of little children pushed out of head start because of a sequester, with the country hours away from a government shutdown, and days away from a potential default on the nation’s debt: the Republicans have decided that the single most important issue facing our nation is to change the law so that employers can deny women access to birth control coverage.

In fact letting employers decide whether women can get birth control covered on their insurance plans is so important that the Republicans are willing to shutter the government and potentially tank the economy over whether women can get access to birth control in the year 2013.  Not the year 1913. The year two thousand thirteen. I have a daughter and I have granddaughters and I will never vote to let a group of backward-looking ideologues cut women’s access to birth control. We have lived in that world and we are not going back, not ever. This assault on birth control is just one more piece of the ongoing Republican assault on the orderly functioning of our government and the orderly functioning of our economy. In effect the Republicans are trying to take the government and the economy hostage, threatening serious damage to both, unless the president agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act. I see things like this and I wonder what alternate realities some of my colleagues are living in, so let me be very clear about what is happening in the real world. The ACA is the law of the land. Millions of people are counting on it. People who need health care coverage, people who need insurance policies that don’t disappear just when they are at their sickest, women will get insurance coverage for birth control. The law is here to stay and it will stay.

Earlier today the Senate emphasized that reality by flatly rejecting the Republican’s newest ransom note just as we did last week. Now we are just hours from the government running out of money. We have to fix the sequester because of all the obstruction; we have unfinished budgets because of all the obstruction; we haven’t even passed a single appropriations bill because of all the obstruction. The least we can do, the bare minimum that we can do, would be to pass a continuing resolution to keep the doors open and the lights on. We can ensure that over a million federal workers aren’t simply sent home for no reason. We can avoid a government shutdown but the Republicans have refused to do even that. They have continued to threaten to shutter the government unless the president agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act. The Senate rejected that position twice yet the Republican response has been to continue to threaten to shut the government down. These threats may continue but they are not working and they will never work because this is democracy and in a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t win their fights through elections, can’t win their fight in congress, can’t win their fights with the presidency, and can’t win their fights in the courts. For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left, a last-gasp for those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy. The time has come for those legislators who cannot cope with the reality of our democracy to get out of the way so that those of us in both parties who understand that the American people sent us here to work for them can get back to work solving real problems faced by the American people. We have a real work to do and that’s what we should be doing.


4 thoughts on “Elizabeth Warren on the Government Shutdown

  1. I might have some sympathy for this argument Ms. Warren is making if she had a few more colleagues who understand they are there to work for the people. They are too few and far between, regardless of party, and that is why so little is ever done to actually solve real problems.

    As the President said in his last State of the Union,

    It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few…

    As I observed at the time, this government is working just on behalf of the few, and Democrats have their fair share of responsibility for that; that has been the case for quite a long time, and it is not all the fault of this Republican obstruction. The time will come when Democrats and Republicans both have to get out of the way, so the real problems faced by this country, and the world, can be solved.

    I also am really bothered by this constant refrain that the Affordable Care Act means all women will have access to free birth control, and that taking that access away is the primary or only reason for Republican theatrics. Birth control should be available as a public service, not as part of insurance not every woman will be able to afford, even with the subsidies. The Affordable Care Act is not close to a real solution to the health care crisis. The for-profit insurance industry needs to be kicked out of the picture; they could to relegated to providing insurance for services most people do not need or want, elective plastic surgery, for example.

    Posted by Aletha | October 2, 2013, 10:06 pm
  2. I’ve got a very different opinion about all of this, Aletha, though I agree with some of what you’ve said there. I’ve lost interest in online writing but am thinking about where I might be up for having this discussion. My focus is not on the Dems, though they have major problems and always have, and not on the old school Repubs either, though their problems are similarly legion. I’ve been watching for going on three decades now as extremists on the Religious Right have been making their way towards a moment like right now when they can pull off what they’re pulling off right now. These are some dangerous people. What’s going on with Dems, Repubs, the whole lot pales in light of these extremists’ ambitions, and for that matter, what they’ve managed to accomplish over the last few days, months.

    Posted by Heart | October 3, 2013, 8:12 am
  3. We are at a dangerous juncture, in all sorts of ways, so I would hardly be inclined to dispute your point. It has become more and more difficult for me to take seriously anything going on in US politics. It all seems like so much surreal theater to me, all spin and no substance, so it may be true that I overestimate the threat posed by politics as usual, and underestimate the threat posed by religious extremists. You are in a position to gauge what they are up to, and how close they are to getting there, better than any outsider. You know the old saying, power abhors a vacuum, and the sorry state of politics has given these extremists this chance to make their move. Conversely, it may also be giving feminist revolutionaries a chance to make our move; so many people are realizing politics as usual just does not work for them, but it does work out very well indeed for the elite few.

    Posted by Aletha | October 3, 2013, 7:51 pm
  4. Aletha, agreed. The thing about religious extremists like these is, they are more than happy to shut down the government, they don’t care. So far as they are concerned, civil government is only legitimate to the degree it is informed or consistent with biblical law. They’re fine with an infinite shutdown, no matter the cost. Most people underestimate how far these folks are willing to go to make their dreams of theonomy and theocracy reality. But you’re right. Maybe the time is coming or has already arrived when most are ready for something completely different, a prospect that is equally hopeful and frightening, really.

    Posted by Heart | October 4, 2013, 10:22 am

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