Why the Shutdown is Stuck & What We Can Do

Yesterday, fellow blogger tokyosand published a post that gave the clearest, most concise explanation of how the current government shutdown came to be, and what we need to do about it … how we can use our voices to, hopefully, make a difference. Please take a minute to read this fine post, for it may answer some questions you’ve had, or help clarify what you already know. Thank you tokyosand, for this fine post and for your generous permission to share it with my readers!

Political⚡Charge

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Millions of Americans are already affected by the shutdown. Federal employees aren’t getting a paycheck (right at the end of the holiday season no less.) Others are being told their food stamps aren’t guaranteed if the shutdown continues. There is already real damage happening, and it will only get worse.

How did we get here? Why is it still a problem? Is there anything we can do?

How did we get here? 

At the end of the 115th Congress, we hit a deadline to renew funding for a third of the federal agencies. Ideally, we’d have an annual budget that took care of all of our agencies for one year, but since Congress hasn’t been able to agree on the budget, we’ve been patching together funding for these agencies with something called continuing resolutions.

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Since the President sends his requests for the budget to Congress, having the leaders…

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So Long, Paul — It’s Been … Interesting

There was a time when I thought Paul Ryan was a man of conscience, a decent man.  I don’t judge people … or at least I used not to judge people … by their political party affiliation, so it didn’t matter to me that Paul was a republican, only that he act in the best interest of the nation.  One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, that I believed he had integrity came from a May 2016 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.  When Tapper asked whether he was supporting then-candidate Donald Trump, Mr. Ryan said …

“Well, to be perfectly candid with you, I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.  I think what a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard-bearer that bears our standards. I think conservatives want to know, ‘Does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?’ There are lots of questions that conservatives, I think, are gonna want answers to, myself included. I want to be a part of this unifying process. I want to help to unify this party.”

In August 2017, there was another moment when I believed perhaps he had a conscience and would finally stand firm against the abomination some call a president.  It was during the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after Trump’s ignominious speech saying that some of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis were ‘very fine people’.  Ryan, again interviewing with Jake Tapper, said …

“I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity.”

Well, he talked a good talk, but when it came time to walk the walk, it was another story altogether.  Paul Ryan went on to become just as much a sycophant, a boot-licker, as his buddy in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

And perhaps his perfidy had early beginnings that we just overlooked, for in a March 2017 interview with Rich Lowry of the National Review, Ryan said …

“So Medicaid, sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg. . . . I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. We’re on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.”

Taking health care from the poor … something he’s been thinking about since college.  And Wisconsinites elected him to the House of Representatives nine times!  But then, Wisconsinites are gluttons for punishment, for they elected asshole Scott Walker to the governorship three times.

Ryan has received some ‘fond’ farewells from the press …

In truth, he leaves Congress after his Republican brethren were drowned in the biggest blue wave since 1974. He leaves Congress with his conservative ideals in tatters. He leaves Congress having consoled himself, as he remarked on December 3, “that in a democracy, sometimes you fall short.” – The Atlantic

Ryan’s burden [was] the fact that he had to work with a president who was his opposite in every measure but party affiliation, and it’s easy to think Ryan’s speakership was doomed from the start. – Roll Call

But now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump. – Ezra Klein, Vox

Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Can anyone name a single instance in which his supposed concern about the deficit made him willing to impose any burden on the wealthy, in which his supposed compassion made him willing to improve the lives of the poor? So how did such an obvious con artist get a reputation for seriousness and fiscal probity? Basically, he was the beneficiary of ideological affirmative action. – Paul Krugman, New York Times

And to these tributes, I would like to add a few words of my own.

Paul, you had an opportunity to stand against a madman, to stop the madness before it set this nation on a path of destruction, and frankly, you blew it.  You started out, maybe, with some values and even a bit of integrity, but you sold your soul downriver the day you threw your lot in with the Donald Trump gang.  You could have argued against a tax bill that provided huge amounts of cash to those who already dine on steak, and gave nothing to those of us who struggle to put a chicken leg on the table.  You had the unique opportunity to speak out against horrible policies that have enabled the fossil fuel and other industries to further damage our environment, our very planet. 

So many times, all you had to do was say, “No, Mr. Trump, I will not support you in ______________” (fill in the blank with any of hundreds of examples).  You were a huge disappointment to the people who looked to you to use your power, your office, to stop Donald Trump from killing us, and instead you smiled, looked into the camera with your sad-puppy eyes, and lied to us.  You fell on your knees before King Trump and when he said “Jump!”, you asked “How high, sir?”  You sold us downriver and I cannot say that I’m sorry to see you leave Washington.  I wish that I could wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, but the truth is that, as Melania might say, “I don’t really care”.

Clown vs Cleric

One of the chief clowns in the circus that was once the federal government of the United States took it upon himself to fire the House chaplain, Reverend Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest.  Speaker of the House, soon to be just a plain-ol’-Joe like the rest of us, decided that the priest praying for the poor, for peace, and for equality was a firing offense.  Hmmmm … think about that one for a minute, folks!

Ryan has warned Conroy before about praying for the things that seem to have dropped off the agenda of the government, such as compassion, but the prayer that broke the camel’s back came last Friday when Conroy prayed “for all people who have special needs” and “those who are sick” and for those “who serve in this House to be their best selves.”

Now, folks … you all know by now that I am not religious.  However, I cannot find a darn thing in the Padre’s prayer with which to take umbrage.  Not.  One.  Thing.  Conroy’s firing may well be the clue to exactly what our government, such as it is, has become.  It has become a group of self-serving men and women who feel threatened when they are reminded of the majority of this nation whom they have harmed in one way or another.  They are offended by those who would have the gall to remind them that there are people in this nation who are suffering from such things as illness, starvation and homelessness.

Ryan’s statement of the priest’s termination came on April 16th, but was phrased in such a way that nobody realized what happened, for Ryan merely said that Conroy would be ‘stepping down’:

“As chaplain, Father Conroy has been a great source of strength and support to our community. He is deeply admired by members and staff. Father Conroy’s ministry here has made a difference, and we are all very grateful to him.”

Sounds fairly innocuous, eh?  Until this week when Conroy’s letter of resignation was made public.  The first line says it all:

As you have requested, [emphasis added] I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.”

Paul RyanConroy later said in an interview that his resignation was requested on behalf of Ryan by Ryan’s chief of staff … he couldn’t even be bothered to do his own dirty work.  Or … was he afraid to face Conroy, knowing there would be questions?

One prayer that earned Conroy a rebuke from Ryan last November, when the bill that would give huge tax cuts mainly to the wealthy was being debated on the floor, included:

“May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

And Ryan took umbrage.  A few days after, a staffer from Ryan’s office came to Conroy and said that Ryan felt the prayer was too political and was upset.  And then one day, as Conroy and Ryan passed in the halls of the Capitol, Ryan said, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”

I wonder if Ryan would have been happier if Father Conroy had prayed for the continued wealth of the members of Congress, or the good health of Donald Trump?  Perhaps he should have prayed for the people of the United States to all develop amnesia and forget the abominations that have been thrust upon us since 20 January 2017.

In the grand scheme of today’s environment in Washington, the firing of the House chaplain is not the most important issue, not the biggest news of the day.  But it speaks volumes and speaks them loudly, I believe.  It sends the message, once again, that among republicans in the federal government, there is little if any concern for the people of this nation, and any who believe otherwise will not be tolerated in the ‘hallowed’ halls of our government.  In truth, I no longer think of it as a government, but rather as either a circus or a train wreck, depending on the news of the day.

Some members of both parties are outraged and demanding more information regarding the priest’s firing.  Representatives Walter Jones, a republican from North Carolina, and Gerald Connolly, a democrat from Virginia, are circulating a letter for their colleagues to sign, asking Mr. Ryan for more information.  Jones said …

“I’m very upset. If this is true about the prayer, and we have freedom of religion in America, how about freedom of religion on the floor of the House? The members of the House vote for the chaplain. This is not a one-man decision. The House should have the facts of whatever the problem is.”

On Friday, House democrats attempted to establish an investigative panel to look into Ryan’s decision to fire Conroy, but the House republicans, predictably, succeeded in shutting down the idea before it even sprouted wings.  Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong issued a statement saying, “The speaker made the decision he believes to be in the best interest of the House, and he remains grateful for Father Conroy’s many years of service.”  Yeah, sure he does.  Ms. Strong must be practicing to get Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ job someday.

As one writer for The Washington Post puts it: “Only in this perverted time could a priest lose his job after committing the sin of crying out for justice for the poor.”  I think that says it all.