(Originally published iin the October 24th issue of the Westchester Guardian --www.westchesterguardian.com/10_24_13/10_24_fin.pdf; by the time this was published, the Shutdown was over)
I’ve always liked Congressman Peter King (R-NY) although I don’t always agree with him – no make that “don’t usually agreed with him”. Maybe I like him because our fathers were both NYPD officers – or maybe it’s because we both grew up in New York City – or both had 16 years of Catholic School education (he added on Notre Dame Law School) or both served in the New York State National State National Guard. More likely, it’s because he has always come across as a straight shooter who speaks his mind no matter what the pressure from anyone, including his own party.
Nowhere has King’s independence been more apparent than in his recent rebelling against his House Republican Leadership over the government shut down. In an editorial in the Irish Voice, publisher Niall O’Dowd wrote “When you go looking for a responsible adult in Washington during this current budget crisis, you’ll probably find Long Island Congressman Peter King in that species. Politico reported that on Monday (JFM – that was then), as the wild men of the Republican right cheered on their breakneck race to shut down the government, King alone stood up in a packed party meeting and said that were heading in the wrong direction.”
In a Fox News interview on October 6th http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/06/republican-rep-peter-king-we-are-the-ones-who-shut-down-the-government/), King did not back down, saying in part, “I’m talking basically about Ted Cruz, who was saying if we [voted in the House to defund] Obamacare, he could manage to both keep the government open and defund Obamacare. The fact is, it was done in the House and the government is now closed and Obamacare is going forward. This was a strategy that never could work. It was almost sort of a nullification, to say we’re going to shut down the government if we don’t defund a law that we don’t like. If we want to defund something, we should repeal it, And do it the same way the president got it signed: elect Republicans to both Houses of Congress, repeal it and then have a Republican president sign it. This was a strategy doomed to failure.”
King also had strong words for the Republicans who were blaming the Democrats and the president for shutting down the government, saying “We are the ones who did shut the government down. You don’t take the dramatic step of shutting down the government unless you have a real strategy.”
Admittedly, King is not the only prominent Republican to speak out against the Ted Cruz / Tea Party strategy. The last two Republican presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney have also spoken out – McCain: although he realizes that Republicans don’t want to hear it, especially when it comes to health care, “elections have consequences” and Romney: instead of this, the other option for eliminating Obamacare “would be potentially working hard to get Republicans elected” (Cahir O’Doherty, in the same Irish Voice, after quoting McCain and Romney, opines “Senator Ted Cruz.., has a more exciting strategy, which seems to be to work as hard as possible to make sure Republicans don’t get elected”) – but neither McCain nor Romney are members of the House where their voice might make a real difference and where there could be punishment from the leadership for their rebellious talk. Additionally, King has announced his interest in exploring the possibility of exploring a 2016 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination; it seems to me that his stand on the shutdown has ended that possibility – and he had to be aware of that risk before he opened his mouth.
To put my position on this in some perspective – while I favor Obamacare (although I would have much preferred universal coverage single-payer Medicare for all), my opposition to the shutdown is not based on policy; I would feel the same if it were a Democratic group, having control in only one House of Congress, trying to block implementation of a law which I abhorred that had been passed both Houses of Congress and signed by the president (and, in this case, vetted by the Supreme Court and made a major issue in a losing presidential race). What is being done is, as Tom Friedman has pointed out in the New Your Times, a subversion of our democratic process. Friedman wrote “What we’re seeing here is how three structural changes that have been building in American politics have now, together, reached a tipping point — creating a world in which a small minority in Congress can not only hold up their own party but the whole government. And this is the really scary part: The lawmakers doing this can do so with high confidence that they personally will not be politically punished, and may, in fact, be rewarded. When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules — namely majority rule and the fact that if you don’t like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can’t just put a fiscal gun to the country’s head — then our democracy is imperiled.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/02/opinion/friedman-our-democracy-is-at-stake.html). I agree with Friedman – much more is important here than the future of Obamacare.
McCain and Romney are right – “Elections have consequences” and the way to repeal or modify the law is by “working hard to get Republicans elected”. Any other method, be it done by Republicans or Democrats, is a challenge to our Democratic process.
While King may have doomed his chance for the Republican nomination for President, he once again showed his integrity and his willingness to stand up for his beliefs and speak out for them – and I salute him for it and wish we had more like him in both parties.
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© 2013 John F. McMullen