Our View: Simpson wisely skips a showdown

August 21, 2013 

Three-fourths of the Idaho congressional delegation now has signed on to a letter — or the idea — that the Affordable Care Act should not be funded by appropriation or when a new continuing resolution, or CR, begins to circulate through the House and Senate when Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day.

Sen. Mike Crapo has joined fellow Idaho Republican Sen. Jim Risch in signing a letter authored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that puts Sen. Harry Reid on notice that they want the ACA repealed, defunded or delayed. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, has said he won't vote for any CR in the House that includes funding "Obamacare," aka the ACA.

Without a new CR that would allow funding on Oct. — even temporarily — the federal government would technically run out of money. It could shut down. Crapo, Risch and Labrador do not believe that is going to happen, and, even if it did, it would not be their decision, they say, but the wish of President Barack Obama — who, in a certain unlikely scenario, would have to decide whether to agree to a CR that averted a shutdown but contained no funding for the ACA to move forward on Oct. 1.

Crapo and Risch readily agree that scenario will never happen. Even if the House passed a CR that excluded funding for Obamacare, such a measure would not pass their Democrat-controlled Senate. They say they and colleagues have drawn this line in the fiscal sand on the off-chance Obama will reconsider and put the brakes on the elaborate, expensive and expansive health care reforms — or at least delay the individual mandate for a year. Both Crapo and Risch say signing the letter has nothing to do with shutting down the government. Said Risch: "We're here to govern."

Now that we understand their posture better, we still don't embrace the exercise, and we are glad to hear Rep. Mike Simpson isn't adopting it. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Simpson doesn't want to tempt fate or test Obama's resolve, even though Simpson himself is dead-set against Obamacare.

"I don't like it (the strategy)," he told the Statesman's Editorial Board on Tuesday. "There is an old saying in politics that you never want to take a hostage that you can't shoot. This is a hostage we should not shoot, and I won't. Closing the government down has significant consequences. I realize that the people who have signed the letter and so on, that their intent is not to shut the government down."

Outside of bringing the issue to the forefront again — and probably resulting in the same outcome of the-ACA-is-law-so-live-with-it — what if something unexpected happened that puts the country or citizens in jeopardy?

"Republicans are united that we want to repeal Obamacare, it's just tactics that we're talking about ... but Republicans would get the blame no matter what."

Simpson said there are real-world implications of shutting the government down.

"And what nobody has answered for me is, what do I tell the spouse who comes up to me with two children and says, 'I'm trying to make the mortgage payment and put food on the table and my husband is fighting for you over in Afghanistan.' ... What do you tell that lady? What do you tell the forest firefighters or contract employees with the federal government that, come Oct. 1, that we're just going to let it burn?"

Simpson said those who were around in 1995, when a similar fiscal standoff ensued and the government shut down for three weeks, are those most adamantly against using this tactic today.

So, we urge our delegation to think three and four steps beyond their votes. Make your point, but be ready to retreat before any hostages are harmed.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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