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Updated: 10/05/2013 08:00:02AM

Local congressmen playing games with shutdown

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Once again, the words of our local congressmen are not matching up with his votes. In the past, we have lauded Representative Tom Rooney and Dennis Ross for their independence from party orthodoxy. It is increasingly harder to do, as Rooney and Ross succumb to the fear of a tea party primary opponent and lurched rightward in recent years.

The latest example was their unwillingness to buck the tea party or House Speaker John Boehner in their foolish strategy of demanding a repeal of the Affordable Care Act in exchange for passing a bill to fund the government. The gambit resulted in the shutting down of non-essential federal government functions across the country.

Rooney voted for three separate bills recently that were doomed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but recently told a columnist in Sarasota that the shutdown was bad politics.

“Mitt Romney was our chance to repeal Obamacare,” Rooney told the columnist. “Our next president is our next best chance.”

Rooney is not alone.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, told the National Journal on Tuesday he thinks health care reform ultimately will be implemented despite the GOP recent efforts.

“We’ve lost this battle. We need to move to the next one,” Ross said, according to the article.

Like Rooney, Ross said the public will reject the reforms when they are enacted.

“If Obamacare becomes law it will fall under its own weight of complexities, costs and inconsistencies, all at the expense of the American people,” Ross said in a statement to a Sarasota newspaper.

The House’s job each year is to pass appropriations bills to fund government operations. If it cannot accomplish that, a remedy is short-term continuing resolutions that fund the government at existing levels. As a result of prior negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, that level is known as the sequester level set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which is projected to cut spending by $109 billion in 2013 and $1.2 trillion through 2021. The Senate would have passed and Obama would have signed a continuing resolution with spending at sequester levels. In fact, the House bill set spending at those levels, but insisted on tacking on anti-Obamacare language on the eve of the law’s implementation nationwide.

It is time for Congress and the president to address long-term budgetary issues that threaten to tack hundreds of billions of dollars to our debt, including the growth of Medicare. This will require hard choices, including potential means testing, raising the eligibility age and exploring how we handle end-of-life treatment. We’re so serious about controlling rising health costs, we disagree with those who push plans that exempt current recipients. It’s too easy for voters on Medicare to say future recipients should pay more and get less treatment at a later age. Having skin in the game ensures voters aren’t making choices based on someone else’s pain.

Making those hard decisions isn’t possible if moderates refuse to stand up against extremists in their own party and insist on goodwill negotiations and compromise, even when they control only one branch of the government. It’s virtually impossible when you’re on the side trying to pretend it didn’t cause the shutdown.

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