This is how absurd the government shutdown has become. The House over the weekend voted unanimously to guarantee federal workers will be paid for all of the time they are off because of this manufactured crisis. That would be the House controlled by Republicans who triggered the shutdown and claim to be the standard-bearers of fiscal responsibility. The only way out of this irrational battle in Washington is for voters from both political parties to demand an end to it.
Federal workers are collateral damage in this debacle. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been sent home without pay, forcing the closure of national parks and museums and affecting services such as processing federally secured home mortgages and running some Head Start programs for low-income children. The pain was reduced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's decision to return to work most of the Pentagon's 350,000 furloughed civilian workers, including more than 1,500 at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
But promising to pay people not to work illustrates the fatal flaw in the Republicans' position. They moved to shut down the government by refusing to agree to a spending plan unless it guts the Affordable Care Act — and now can't defend the consequences of such recklessness. This week, House Republicans are expected to pass a series of bills to keep money flowing for programs like Head Start and border security to quiet their critics. This is a stalling tactic that President Barack Obama and the Senate should reject, and the focus should be on passing a clean spending bill to reopen all of the government and on raising the debt ceiling to avoid triggering a real economic crisis.
Fortunately, reasonable Republicans are raising their voices and declaring they are prepared to end a stalemate they will not win. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, explains in a column in today's Tampa Bay Times that he remains opposed to the Affordable Care Act but is ready to vote for a one-year spending plan without poison bills for health care reform. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, says he has told House Speaker John Boehner it is time to end the stalemate and vote on a clean spending bill. Those are reasonable positions, and Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, and Richard Nugent, R-Spring Hill, should be taking that approach as well.
The loud tea party minority in the Republican Party should not be allowed to hold the nation hostage. The stalemate has become more about saving face for tea party supporters than having any hope the president will bend on health care reform. Boehner insists there are not enough Republicans prepared to join Democrats to approve a clean spending bill, but independent counts suggest he's wrong. There probably are at least five Florida Republicans who would vote to end the stalemate. There aren't another 15 reasonable House Republicans in the rest of the country?
The Republicans have made their opposition to health care reform clear. They couldn't stop it in Congress. They couldn't stop it in the courts. They couldn't elect their presidential candidate who promised to repeal it. They won't persuade the president and the Senate to derail it. Now it is time to move on, end the budget stalemate and stop promising to pay government workers not to work.