Senators Casey and Menendez Critical of Tea Party on Shutdown

“Schoolyard Bully” :  A Message from Budget Battle Mess

J..Smith/El Hispano

Philadelphia –  A sigh of relief issued from hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal employees along with much of the nation’s financial sector and  businesses, last Thursday, as a sixteen day standoff that shuttered many federal departments came to a conclusion.  The signing of a last minute accord that was reached between Senate Democrat and Republican leaders, the agreement ended an impasse that befuddled foreign leaders and was characterized by the Economist magazine as “government by torture.”

   During a press conference from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, Friday, Senator Bob Casey, (D-PA), alluded to the obstructive role played by the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party in achieving a more timely agreement:  “We got through it,” however, “we came perilously close to going over the deadline. We have to learn from this.”

   “When the Tea Party pushes the country in this direction, we’ve got to be able to stand up and fight against that,” said the Democratic Senator. “In this case you had a bipartisan, you could even say a tri-partisan (of) Democrats, Republicans and Independents standing up against that (and coming) together.  Some Republicans came late in the game, but they stood with us.”

 Of the ramifications of the near default, Sen. Casey added, “the consequences of (that) we don’t even want to contemplate right now.”

   Sen. Casey later elaborated on his fundamental differences with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and other Tea Party Republicans, noting that he “obviously” disagreed with him on “health care.”

     Sen. Casey then referred to an “unspoken” Congressional protocol which for years has governed debates:  “If (members of Congress) were against the war in Iraq or this or that policy, they didn’t shut the government down to get the result they wanted. That’s sort of an unspoken agreement we have with each other.  That when you don’t get your way, you’re not allowed to force the government to shut down.”

    In a statement a few days before the agreement, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) reflected a similar weariness with Tea Party tactics:  “Here we are again, at the same crossroads. We know the landmarks. We know the signs. We’ve been here before,” said Sen. Menendez. “We negotiated in good faith to avert the last shutdown, the last default threat. We imposed the sequester, but that wasn’t enough.”

“So here we are once again and we will be here again, in a week, a month – 6 months, a year – being asked for more concessions to a minority of extreme Republicans who seem to have forgotten that we operate under the rule of law. They simply have chosen to ignore it.

“The fact is we passed the Affordable Care Act. It went through the legislative process – was signed by the President, tested by the Supreme Court, but – so what, they say – it doesn’t count,” argued Sen. Menendez.  “Like the schoolyard bully they want a do-over or they’ll take your lunch money.”

“This right-wing Republican minority claims to love the Constitution,” added the New Jersey Democrat. “They adhere to the strictest interpretation of its tenets – but apparently is not interested in living by it, or by the rule of law that this nation stands-for and lives-by.”

     While acknowledging this was a short-term agreement, Sen. Casey went on to talk of the need for “longer-term” budgetary solutions, adding, “We should never again get this close to a deadline.”  Sen. Casey urged his Congressional colleagues to turn their focus to ending the process of “sequestration,” and work toward the creation of jobs for a middle class that has been “hammered” for more than a decade by a sluggish economy.

   According to Standard & Poor’s, the sixteen day federal government shutdown resulted in the loss of $24 billion to the US. economy, and reduced projected fourth-quarter GDP by 3  percent.