1. Opinion

Editorial: Clock ticks toward self-inflicted wound to economy

Congressional Republicans are risking the nation's economic health by prolonging the crisis over approving a spending plan and raising the debt ceiling. It is indefensible to put Americans' retirement accounts, businesses and benefits at risk to save face in a manufactured political fight. As the endgame plays out this week, Floridians should demand more than obstruction from Sen. Marco Rubio and his Republican colleagues in the House who are part of the problem rather than the solution.

It's bad enough that the two-week government shutdown has sent home hundreds of thousands of federal workers (who will wind up being paid by taxpayers for not working), closed national parks and delayed a range of government services. Even worse is that the nation is poised to hit the debt ceiling Thursday, meaning that the federal government could not borrow more money to pay for commitments it already has made. That's as irresponsible as buying a house and refusing to make the mortgage payments.

What is at stake in refusing to raise the debt ceiling cannot be overstated. The federal government probably could pay bills with cash for a couple of weeks, but by November the government would have to start choosing whom to pay first, from bondholders to Social Security recipients to businesses with federal contracts. Imagine the impact on the investments of millions of Americans and businesses in every community.

There were faint glimmers of hope late Monday. Republicans have moved away from their initial demands that the Affordable Care Act be delayed or starved of cash. Some senators still want a delay in the medical devices tax, which Democrats should oppose, and additional income verification for those seeking subsidies in the insurance marketplace, which is worth discussing if it isn't too onerous.

More broadly, talks have turned to ending the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling in exchange for broader discussions on reducing the federal debt. Any deal should include a temporary spending plan and an increase in the debt ceiling that are ambitious enough to allow for broader negotiations and don't position the nation for another avoidable crisis anytime soon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have again come to the forefront to negotiate a way out and sounded optimistic Monday. It would help if Rubio and his tea party allies would be as reasonable. In the House, Speaker John Boehner must stand up for the nation and against his party's extremists to move any deal forward. He should have help from Reps. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, and Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, who are ready to vote for a clean spending bill. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, and Richard Nugent, R-Spring Hill, are still part of the problem.

The clock is ticking. Florida voters should raise their voices and demand that a fair deal be reached and that the nation avoid self-inflicted economic pain that could be worse than anyone anticipates.