In a news conference late yesterday evening, President Barack Obama reprimanded the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party. Obama rightly declared that “one faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government.” Despite the government shutdown, there is a more fundamental issue to address — paralysis and shutdown have become the new norm in the Capitol. The Tea Party is a scourge on government efficiency, and the electorate must hold members that ascribe to the group’s practices accountable for their detrimental actions.
The current Congress, the 113th, is on pace to become the least productive in American history, and by and large, a small minority is to blame. While this Congress has passed some substantive legislation — namely relief for the Hurricane Sandy victims and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act — nearly all of prospective legislation has faced unprecedented opposition. The political climate has receded to an affair where an obstinate faction has the ability to impair the functions of the entire government, undermining any balance.
Despite only having a 49 member caucus in the House of Representative, the influence of the Tea Party is far greater than their small number implies. Speaker John Boehner’s decision last week to succumb to Tea Party demands and make defunding Obamacare for one year a provision of continued government funding came as a shock to both Democrats and GOP members alike. Boehner’s inability to control this faction highlights his diminished influence over congressional Republicans.
The economic impact of the shutdown is already being felt in the financial markets. The Dow Jones, Nasdaq and S&P all closed down in light of the heightened uncertainty. Obama also noted the human toll in his conference — two million civilian government workers and over 1.4 million active military personnel will not receive their paychecks. Entire departments will be forced to send their employees home, including NASA, the National Park Service and the IRS. These implications are evidence of the Tea Party’s blatant disregard for the basic provision of government services.
Rather than working with their counterparts to fuse a compromise between two ideologies, a faction of the GOP has effectively muted a democratically elected voice and has significantly compromised legislative efficiency. The implications of a government shutdown are vast and damaging, and the very possibility that these results might happen exposes a portion of the Republican party as rampantly irresponsible. Ideological concerns, no matter how significant, are not cause for the subversion of the most basic functions of our government.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 1 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at edit [email protected]