GOP will suffer in government shutdown

Nyles Kendall

If Republicans and Democrats fail to hash out a compromise before the existing budget expires on March 4, the economic and political implications will be devastating.

The Republican “”slash and burn”” budget proposal for fiscal year 2011, which was approved on a party-line vote in the House of Representatives last Saturday, would cut discretionary domestic spending by $61 billion.

To achieve this, the Legislature would defund PBS and AmeriCorps and withhold millions from the Department of Education and Environmental Protection Agency. Social services, healthcare and border security are also on the chopping block.

The GOP’s budget proposal will hinder the fledgling economic recovery and could send the country spiraling into a double-dip recession. The Democratic–led Senate has vowed to reject the legislation and President Barack Obama has issued a veto threat. The White House’s proposed 2011 budget includes a modest $41 million in spending cuts, but Republicans have refused to meet the president halfway and promised to stonewall any legislation that would temporarily extend the existing budget in its current form.

In 1995 and 1996, President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans fought bitterly over budgetary priorities, resulting in the longest government shutdown in American history.

From mid-December to early January thousands of federal employees were furloughed; some were even laid off. Social Security checks were delayed, claims for veteran’s benefits were halted and national parks were forced to close their doors. At the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., animal dung was dumped in the parking lot because there was no money to have it shipped away for composting.

The Grand Canyon was closed for the first time in 76 years. Independent small-business owners who worked close to the canyon were robbed of thousands in revenue. Communities near national parks lost an estimated 14.2 million dollars a day, a total of $400 million over the course of the shutdown.

The Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant, co-owned by the City of Nogales and the United States International Boundary and Water Commission, almost ceased operations. The low-income community was forced to maintain the plant for three weeks.

Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested he had triggered the shutdown because Clinton had made him sit in the back of Air Force One. This was arguably the biggest mistake of his career. Gingrich’s immaturity was mocked on the cover of the New York Daily News, which likened him to an overweight toddler throwing a temper tantrum. When the smoke had cleared, “”cry baby”” Gingrich was the most unpopular politician in the country. But the prospect of a government shutdown doesn’t seem to bother most Republicans today. They’ve apparently learned nothing from 1995.

House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to take the government shutdown option off the table and the 87 freshmen Republicans in the House, all too eager to appease their Tea Party overlords, have been clamoring for a shutdown since they were elected last fall.

Democrats made huge concessions on tax cuts last year and the time for reciprocity has arrived. If Republicans refuse to compromise, on March 4, they will be singularly responsible for the disaster that will ensue.  

— Nyles Kendall is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.