Several days before the federal government was partially closed, President Barack Obama announced he would not negotiate with Congress on the federal budget or the debt ceiling. When specifically asked if he shouldn't consider offering at least some compromise - given that the GOP was willing to compromise with him - Obama said, "I shouldn't have to offer anything." Since that time, he has consistently refused to negotiate in any way - even calling congressional leaders to the White House to tell them yet again that he will not compromise.
On the weekend before the shutdown, President Obama spent four hours on the golf course. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his colleagues in the Senate took the weekend completely off.
Obama's unwillingness to negotiate stands in stark contrast to the behavior of the Republicans in Congress. The GOP started off by passing a continuing resolution (CR) that stripped away the funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Obama and Reid said "no way", but offered no counterproposal. The GOP then compromised, offering a new CR that delayed the individual mandate for all Americans. The same way the Obama administration had delayed the implementation of other parts of the law for special interests like unions, and the president's allies in the business world. Obama and Reid again said "No" and again offered no counterproposal.
The GOP compromised again, asking that members of Congress and congressional staff be required to enroll in the Obamacare exchanges like most everyone else, instead of receiving a generous taxpayer-funded subsidy that would allow them to keep the already-generous coverage they currently have. Obama and Reid again said "No" and again made no counteroffer and refused to talk.
Even The Washington Post's Bob Woodward has expressed dismay at the president's refusal to engage in any serious discussions with the GOP. Woodward, who is an authority on the way Washington works, said that if Obama continues to refuse to negotiate, the blame will be on "his head... It's on the president's head. He's got to lead. He's got to talk. And the absence of discussion here, I think, is a baffling element."
Obama And Reid Failed High School Civics
Obama said, "[The GOP House is] not doing me a favor by paying for things that they have already approved for the government to do. That's part of their basic function of government; that's not doing me a favor. That's doing what the American people sent them here to do, carrying out their responsibilities." The unspoken premise of Obama's statement is that the House has either a legal or a moral obligation to pass a budget that is to his liking. But they have no such duty or obligation.
First of all, Obamacare is profoundly unpopular and has been so for more than three years. It is true that the president was re-elected in 2012. It is also true, however, that the Republicans were returned to the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives on a promise to repeal the same law the president is defending. One can clearly argue that the House has an obligation equal or greater than the president's to stop Obamacare and replace it with workable reforms that actually have the support of the American public.
Moreover, under the Constitution, we have three separate branches of government, a bicameral national legislature, and a system of checks and balances that is designed to produce tension. Perhaps Obama failed high school civics (we'll never know because he still refuses to release his academic transcripts). But I have news for the president and those who seem to think that Congress must pass laws and budgets that please him: The GOP-controlled House has acted entirely and completely within the bounds of the Constitution.
The Founders wanted there to be broad consensus before laws were passed. They did not want a single person to be able to impose his will on the nation. The Founders did not want the will of a single chamber of Congress to be imposed upon the public. They deliberately designed a system that required agreement between the House and the Senate and the president that can only be produced by compromise, even when one party controls both the executive and legislative branches of the government.
The Founders would expect Obama and Reid to sit down and work out a compromise that could gain the support of the House. They would have understood it would require the House to compromise, which they've already shown a willingness to do. This, however, is what Obama and Reid have clearly said they will not do and something that they clearly have not done.
One of the most mindlessly stupid things said during this debate is that Obamacare "is the law of the land." What does that mean? Those who say it seem to think it means that the GOP is compelled to support Obamacare, fund it, and move on. Anyone who says this is entirely ignorant of our constitutional system.
No president can bind future presidents. No Congress can bind future congresses. That Congress passed a law in the past does not obligate current or future congresses to support it. They can in good faith oppose the law. They can stop funding it. In fact, our system as always contemplated at least a two-part system to laws. First, is enacting the law itself. Second, is passing funding for the law's enforcement each and every year thereafter. Future congresses can either overturn the law or they can stop funding it. This happens all the time. To suggest otherwise is simply disingenuous.
If being "the law of the land" is grounds to silence those who think the law should be changed, why did Obama condemn the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case and publicly castigate the Supreme Court during a State of the Union address? Citizens United is indisputably the law of the land, yet Obama felt free to rail against it and arguably signal to his supporters at the IRS that they could illegally assault his political opponents. But somehow, Obama believes the GOP should sit silently when it believes the law of the land should be changed or repealed. Simply put, when used to argue that Congress cannot, or should not, change the law, or reduce its funding, "it's the law of the land" is a feeble minded argument. The law can be changed. Budgets can be changed. It happens all the time.
They Can't Have It Both Ways
Obama and Reid have said numerous times the House is refusing to do its constitutional duty. The truth is the House has passed a budget in compliance with the law each of the last four years. It is the Democrats who control the U.S. Senate who have failed to pass a budget. Harry Reid refused to allow that to happen for four consecutive years. As a result, the government has been run on "continuing resolutions." I do not recall Obama even once chastising the Senate for failing to do its job. Obama was silent then, yet he now claims the House is the one who hasn't done its job.
Obama claims that he doesn't want to set a precedent in which Congress "play games with the debt limit" in the future. Reagan had to battle the Democratic Congress to increase debt limit more than once. So did Clinton. So did both Bushes. There is nothing new here. Congress has the power of the purse. The president has to negotiate with Congress. That is simply how it works. This is not new.
Even more damning is that Obama seems to forget that as a U.S. senator, he voted against increasing the debt limit. At that time, Obama said, "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government can't pay its own bills. ... I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit." Obama now says that the House is irresponsible for raising the exact same concerns that he raised as a member of Congress.
In an amazing case of projection, Obama said, "But we're not going to accomplish those things if one party to this conversation says that the only way that they come to the table is if they get 100 percent of what they want and if they don't, they threaten to burn down the house." Isn't it Obama who saying that he won't come to the table to negotiate unless he gets 100 percent of what he wants? He demands a "clean CR" which means a CR to his liking without any debate as to what is included in the budget. By his own standard, Obama is a charlatan and demagogue. He is the one who "threatens to burn down the house."
Reid And Obama: Why Would We Want To Help A Child With Cancer?
Reid blamed Republicans for the fact that the National Institutes of Health was turning away cancer patients for treatment. When the GOP House passed a bill to entirely fund NIH treatments and testing, Reid said the Senate wouldn't vote on it and President Obama said he would veto it. When asked why he and his Democratic colleagues wouldn't try to help "one child who has cancer" by approving the bill funding cancer treatments, Reid shot back: "Why would we want to do that?" This reveals a deeply dishonest and cynical man who is willing to hold cancer patients hostage so that he can gain support for less defensible and less popular priorities while at the same time accusing his opponents of wanting to harm cancer patients.
Reid went on to complain that the GOP wants to "pick and choose" what parts of the government gets funded as if that is a problem. News flash: that is called budgeting - picking and choosing what your financial priorities are. That is the job of Congress. It's laid out in the Constitution. If you disagree with their budget priorities, pass your own. Then sit down and talk and compromise to come up with an agreeable list of funding priorities. That's called a budget. Harry, please don't insult us with embarrassingly lame tripe like "they can't pick and choose." Of course they can. So can you. That is how budgeting is done. Only someone who is supremely dim-witted or who has an emperor complex would complain about this.
Another statement made consistently by Obama that shows his utter contempt for America's voters is "I won the election." What follows from that? Each member of the House also won their election, and many of them by far larger margins than the president's victory. Based on that, can GOP House members legitimately demand that Obama agree with them simply because they won their election? Of course not! They all won their election. This sort of idiotic thinking is an embarrassment - especially from a man who believes he is the smartest man in every room.
Breaking the Law and Violating American's Rights Just to Make the Shutdown Worse
Once the shutdown began, Obama's outrageous behavior shows bad faith and lawlessness. For example, the Obama administration could not order the closure of Mt. Vernon, the privately-owned, privately-funded home, library, and living memorial to the nation's first president. So he sent the National Park Service to erect barricades that closed the bus turn around and the parking lots, which are on federal land. But no federal funds are spent to leave the bus turn around alone. Funds were spent to actively blockade them.
It doesn't stop there. Without a budget every employee who was deemed not essential was told to stay home. Nevertheless Obama sent government employees to erect barriers around the WWII Memorial - an outdoor, open air, granite monument open 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year - all without any government personnel. This is so outrageous that even the decidedly liberal David Letterman joked that Obama put a huge tarp over the Statute of Liberty so that no one could look at it during the shutdown.
Prior to their arrival, World War II veterans, in their late 80s and 90s, asked the Obama administration to allow them to see the World War II monument, but he said no and erected the barricades. The veterans were told they would be arrested if they passed the barriers. The veterans went to the monument anyhow with signs that said "When we came to Normandy Beach, it was closed too."
Closing the World War II memorial was ordered by the Obama administration and it is just like closing the White House and sending out memos instructing government offices to make the sequester as painful as possible - they want to make things worse. It is their intent to make things as bad as possible. This tells you all you need to know about who is playing politics and who wants this.
The Obama administration also sent government employees to close a small privately-owned and -operated park outside of Washington D.C., and posted government employees to prevent people from going to the park. Why? Because the road that leads to the park crosses federal land. So they sent government law enforcement officials to cordon off the road and stand guard so that no one could go to the private park. What is next? Closing down interstate highways? This is lawlessness. It is shameless.
These are not the actions of good faith leaders. These are not even the actions of good or decent men. These are the actions of tyrants throwing temper tantrums because they have not gotten their way precisely as they demand it. These are the actions of deeply corrupt and deeply dishonest men. Moreover, these are the actions of emotionally immature and intellectually disadvantaged men. Yet, the mainstream media will not report these facts, nor will they connect the dots. They simply complain that the House hasn't given the president a "clean CR" - code for a budget to the president's liking.
Sadly, this is what we deserve. In a democratic form of government, as a nation, we pretty much get the leadership we deserve - particularly if we re-elect them after they've revealed themselves. If we elect dishonest, power-hungry, emotionally immature, and intellectually weak charlatans to office, we should not be surprised to see the abuses we are currently witnessing.
George Landrith is president and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom. The group advocates for individual freedom, peace through strength, limited government, free enterprise, and traditional American values. Landrith is recognized as an authority on constitutional law and jurisprudence.