Government Shutdown Made Easy: How the Debt Crisis is (not)Related to Obamacare

We’re headed into another government shutdown, starting tomorrow. This is my attempt to explain the situation: Let’s say you are out to eat with your spouse… Chili’s… you love the skillet-queso… can’t get enough of it. While at dinner, you tell your spouse that you sent the check to the orthodontist to pay for braces for your oldest child. Your spouse flies into a rage.

“I didn’t want you to do that!” your spouse says. “I don’t want to pay for braces! I know the child needs them, but they are too expensive, and they are going to be painful sometimes!”

“We talked about this last year,” you answer. “I know you have reservations about this but our child needs braces, and this is what we decided to do. It’s settled. It’s done. The check has already cleared and the braces go on tomorrow.”

“Oh yeah?” says your irascible spouse. “Then, I refuse to pay for dinner! Have fun eating your skillet-queso because we’re not leaving this restaurant!” …and scene. That’s the fiscal crisis in a nutshell.

  • The Affordable Care Act = the braces.
  • The irascible spouse = House Republicans.
  • The dinner bill = funding the government by raising the debt ceiling.
  • You = hostage.
  • The skillet-queso = really the best thing to eat at Chili’s.

The House will not raise the debt ceiling because they are mad that Obamacare was passed into law. They cannot repeal Obamacare because the Dems in the senate will not allow it, and even if they did the president would veto. So, since House Republicans cannot repeal Obamacare, they want to de-fund it. The problem is that they can’t. The money used to fund the ACA does not depend upon appropriations from congress! The ACA is funded whether or not Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling. This is a made-up crisis. House Republicans have tried to link the debt ceiling and the funding of ACA together when they are not part of the same thing.

This is from an article at NBC news:

The money the federal government is using to run them doesn’t rely on appropriations from Congress. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has deliberately linked the Affordable Care Act to the continuing resolution — the law that keeps the federal government funded. They want Democrats in Congress and President Obama to agree to delay or even repeal the law in return for keeping the government running. Not going to happen, say the Democrats and Obama. It’s far more likely that the government will shut down for a few days and then both sides will agree to keep cash flowing without bringing the health-reform law into it.

And it’s very unlikely the Republicans in Congress who have vowed to repeal the health-reform law can succeed, because all laws have to pass the Senate and Democrats who support the law control the Senate. And President Barack Obama would veto any such repeal, of course. Even some Republicans point out that the Supreme Court has ruled Obamacare constitutional and it is now the law of the land.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of two books: Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, The Wall Street Journal, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 12 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • scott stone

    Let me start by saying the Republicans in the House are idiots! I really struggle with trying to understand what they think they are going to accomplish. I have somewhat of a conservative sensibility (not tied to a party, but to an ideology with my faith guiding me in my decision making process) and still see nothing positive in their position. My only conclusion is that some must feel that the ACA is so detrimental that they are standing on principle, and that is a HUGE stretch.
    That being said I do, as usual, have a few points that may benefit the narrative. First off is the theory of a “manufactured crisis.” The only thing manufactured is that a shut down is a crisis. Did you know that when Tip O’Neill was the Democrat House Speaker the government shut down 7 times? Yep, 7 times there was a temporary government shut down. The sun still rose the next day believe it or not.
    The other thing that I’ve noticed is the language being used. Let’s make no mistake, the Dems are certainly winning the language war. They are allowed, with the help of the press regurgitating it, to use language that the Republicans were told not to use anymore. Remember when Gabby Giffords was shot and we were told that the rhetoric needed to be toned down? No more bullseyes. No more violent metaphors. Well I’m so tired of the “hostage” metaphor and the “bombs strapped to their chests” and the “gun to the head” statements. I see you’ve used the hostage metaphor also. My guess is that those types of metaphors work really well with low information voters.
    Finally, I like your explanation of the shut down, it’s spot on. The President uses another story when talking about the debt ceiling. He uses a restaurant analogy and says it’s like going out for a really fancy meal but then when the check comes you don’t want to pay the bill. The debt ceiling must be raised to pay for what we’ve already spent (funny how he voted against it when he was in the Senate and actually said it was “unpatriotic” to keep spending money the way we have.) I have my own restaurant analogy. It’s not that we don’t want to pay the bills we’ve incurred. We want to be the responsible bartender that cuts off the guy that has had to much to drink!

  • Sven2547

    It’s the thrashing of a dying party. They can’t advance their agenda in a fair or reasonable way, so all they can do is threaten to burn the house down.

    • scott stone

      While I’m not in favor of what the party is currently doing, I’d disagree that they are a dying party. Remember, it was just 3 years ago when the Republicans took back the house and picked up historical numbers. They came quite close to winning the Senate when the Democrats had roughly a 20 seat majority. I just think they don’t have a decent, common sense conservative to coalesce around.

    • scott stone

      Let me rephrase that. The party doesn’t have anyone that the democrats and media won’t label as a mean spirited, racist, bigot, homophobe, terrorist, teabagger, sexist, grandma killer, etc.

  • scott stone

    Hey Tim.

    I’ve been thinking about the mess in Washington and though I’m not going to change my opinion about how irresponsible the Republicans are, for the sake of discussion I was wondering about your take on a completely alternative view. It’s all the Senate Democrats fault.
    Now before anybody gets all crazy let me make my point and also remember this is just for the sake of argument. What is going on is that the fiscal year is coming to an end and a CR (continuing resolution) needs to be reauthorized. This really isn’t about the debt ceiling, at least not yet. The stupid Republicans want to authorize a new CR for spending without funds for the ACA. Once again let me state that I think this is a stupid idea. My main point is that we are in the position we are because we have not had a budget passed by the Senate Democrats since Obama has been in office. Hence the need to reauthorize a CR time and time again. Operating the gov’t through the CR process is an irresponsible way to budget. While the light of stupidity certainly shines on the House, the Senate must shoulder a tremendous amount of blame. If there was regular order in the Senate and Harry Reid actually presented and passed a budget that by law they are required to do we would not be having this debate. Couple that with the fact that one of the recent Obama submitted budgets was voted down 99-0. Yes the Republicans are dumb but there is plenty of finger pointing that can be directed towards the President and his party. Your thoughts?

    Scott