To the chagrin of most Americans, this week the prison was turned over to the prisoners in the form of a government shutdown, and now Republican leadership needs to find a way to regain control of its caucus and implement a reversal in strategy. As a pragmatic millennial, here is the way that many in our generation would love to see the shutdown end.
As few options remain in the traditional Washington playbook, Speaker John Boehner should throw his conventional tactics out the window and address the country with this message:
“With good intentions we have opposed Obamacare from the night it was forced through the House because we believe it will cause more harm than good and its unintended consequences will haunt American businesses for years to come. However, it is now clear that our passion to defund this law caused us to become overzealous and imprudent. I want to apologize to members of the Tea Party for leading you to believe it was ever possible to defund Obamacare through shutting the government down. It was not. And I want to apologize to the rest of the Republican Party for pursuing a strategy that was not based on providing solutions, but providing only objections. Obamacare is in fact the law of the land, but it also represents the larger shift toward more bureaucracy, larger deficits and increased spending. It is our job, particularly here in the People’s House, to oppose those shifts. Ultimately the goal of House Republicans is to eliminate the burden of massive deficits and ensure that a lean, efficient American government will be handed down to younger generations. With that goal in mind, I want to partner together with Democrats in the House and Senate to embark on a national challenge to bring the federal budget deficit to zero in the next 10 years. For our children and grandchildren’s sake this will require a balanced budget amendment that will hold the line further into the future. We offer this solution knowing full well that neither political party will get everything they want in order to accomplish something this ambitious. With agreement on a general framework to eliminate the deficit in 10 years, similar to the proposals of many Members of Congress, the House will pass a clean continuing resolution and we can continue to govern. Mr. President, we are not asking for you to negotiate with us. We are asking for you to join us in committing to a goal so reasonable and so sensible that neither party could justify opposition. The media can call it a grand bargain, a change of heart, or they can call it the most aggressive plan out of Congress since the space race. Regardless, it is time we band together and prove to the country that the United States Congress is capable of working together to solve problems.”
Without weakening their stance against bigger government and its health care solution, Obamacare, Republicans would benefit from being bold enough to admit they used a bad strategy in trying to defund the law through a government shutdown. At this point, the American people may respond positively to any group of politicians transparent enough to admit they made a mistake. If you think an apology and pivot in strategy would be risky, bear in mind Congress has a 10 percent approval rating. They have nowhere to go but up.
In 1995, before the last government shutdown, a balanced budget amendment came within one vote of passing in the United States Senate, proving that bipartisan support is feasible. And in 2011, national polling showed 65 percent of Americans support an amendment that would prevent the federal government from spending more money than it collects. Whereas Obamacare and other hot-button issues make negotiation difficult by violating the core principles of either the Democrat or Republican Party, a balanced budget amendment does not.
In a country desperately in need of a common goal, counting down the days until we balance a budget would be an awe-inspiring process. Just imagine the effects of watching a deficit clock ticking down to zero, as opposed to a debt clock ticking upward to infinity. While the government is shut down and the nation is eagerly waiting to see if anything productive can come of it, the Republican Party should at least attempt to trade the pipe dream of fully defunding of Obamacare through a six-week CR for a transformative, bipartisan commitment to force the federal government to live within its means.