Reader's View: Idaho’s delegation helps perpetrate spectacle

October 23, 2013 

This nation and the world have witnessed the humiliating debacle of the United States Congress using a self-inflicted wound to make fools of themselves and to damage the standing of the United States government; in a doomed effort to change a law (Obamacare) that was enacted into law, signed by the president and approved by a conservative Supreme Court. In effect, a handful of radicals drove the entire Republican Party into a ridiculous attempt to ignore the 2012 election results while hurting millions of Americans.

I had the great honor of representing Idaho in the U.S. House of Representatives for eight years (1985-1993). My terms bridged two Republican presidents (Reagan and Bush), and while I disagreed with many of their ideas, I had great respect for both of them and supported them. We Democrats held majorities in the House of Representatives, but we never considered holding the nation hostage to further our own ends or to harm the president. A recession during the Reagan years damaged his public support, but the thought of damaging the economy to further weaken his administration never entered our minds. Instead, we worked with him to help our fellow Americans who were suffering.

As we reflect on the debacle, we can’t take any pride in Idaho’s delegation. Our two congressmen played slightly different roles as Rep. Labrador embraced the most radical elements of the tea party and was willing to damage the “full faith and credit” of the United States and impose lasting pain on his constituents. Congressman Simpson, while sounding a bit more moderate, did little to mitigate the damage. Perhaps it was the fear of his Republican challenger that silenced him, but when thousands of INL workers, government contractors and other federal employees were hurting, his silence spoke volumes.

As to our senators, they were not to be found. They released statements blaming the president for the shutdown and Sen. Risch made campaign stops blaming the president using half-truths and distortions to make his point. Neither politician will be considered for a mention in the next volume of “Profiles in Courage.” The spectacle we have witnessed has greatly damaged the image of the Congress of the United States, and polls that show that hemorrhoids have a better poll number than Congress seems to bear this out.

When the Senate brokered a deal to end the crisis, and the House of Representatives, without a majority of Republicans, agreed to the proposal, we avoided a calamity that would have done great damage to our economy and rocked the financial markets worldwide.

What was accomplished? The estimated cost of $24 billion of lost productivity as well as the billions of dollars Congress approved to pay the wages of nearly a million furloughed workers is more than we have spent on many of our national disasters. And the cost to families and communities that were impacted by this foolish shutdown is nearly impossible to determine.

Nothing but pain was accomplished. Our nation’s reputation was hurt and our international enemies were gleeful by our incompetent display. We Idahoans can take little consolation in the actions of our Congressional delegation. One, Mr. Labrador was one of the instigators of this mess, and our two senators did nothing to help the situation, and when the Senate voted to end the mess, they joined their radical colleagues and voted to continue the crisis. One member, Congressman Simpson, showed some courage and voted with a minority of his party to reopen the government. Thomas Jefferson said that people get the government they deserve. It pains me but I believe he was correct.

Stallings, a Democrat, served Idaho in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1985 to 1993. He was defeated by Rep. Mike Simpson in a comeback bid in 1998.

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