Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in a measure that either will defund Obamacare or shut down the federal government. The stakes are high, befitting the uncompromising nature of the tea party Republicans.
On the surface, there doesn't appear to be any way to prevent the Affordable Care Act from launching as scheduled one week from today. ACA has withstood dozens of House votes attempting to repeal or defund it since the law was passed three years ago. Logic should have taken hold by now, given the law is President Barack Obama's signature domestic legislation and the Senate is firmly Democrat.
"Any bill that defunds Obama and his health care law is dead on arrival in the Senate," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Logic has not been the tea party's driving force, however. And now these members are desperate enough to risk everything to get their way -- even the livelihoods of regular people and the support of fellow Republicans.
"Our brave men and women of our military don't get paid; our recovering economy will take a huge hit, and our most vulnerable citizens -- including the elderly and veterans who rely on critical government programs and services -- could be left high and dry," said Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said coupling the spending bill with the latest attempt to defund Obamacare is a "political ploy."
"It's not a tactic that we can actually carry out and be successful," Coburn said.
In order for the government to continue providing services in the new fiscal year, which also starts Oct. 1, Congress must reach an agreement on appropriations. Without appropriations, expect some military operations to cease as well as a host of other necessary functions such as processing Medicare claims and Social Security applications. Senior Medicare recipients might be forced to switch from private plans to fee-for-service, while the Children's Health Insurance Program would lose its federal funding.
Consequences of a shutdown will be felt by many Americans, but certainly not the elected leaders striving to make their point. And if the conservative faction doesn't get its way with the appropriations bill, it plans to attach another stop-Obamacare rider to the debt limit increase that will be necessary to prevent the nation from defaulting.
It doesn't appear there is any line the tea partiers won't cross. And one of the most ironic arguments being offered comes from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who rode into Washington on the tea party wave of 2010.
"The point is Obamacare ought to be able to stand on its own merits," Lee said.
We would offer any attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act ought to be able to stand on its own merits as well. Instead, it's being attached to financial bills that have to pass in order for the U.S. and global economies not to crash -- again.
Washington might be broken, but simply playing games will not fix it. And too many Americans will be hurt in the process.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry