EDITORIAL: Hardball politics fouls Americans, economy

2013-10-02T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Hardball politics fouls Americans, economy nwitimes.com
October 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Every good parent knows Congress needs a time-out. That's not what the federal government needs, however.

The House of Representatives has tried dozens of times to repeal, delay or defund Obamacare. Like it or not, it's the law, and Obama isn't going to repeal it. Shutting down the government hasn't stopped implementation of Obamacare, either. Health insurance exchange sign-ups have begun.

Instead of trying to kill Obamacare now, House Republicans should work toward Indiana-style caps on medical malpractice claims and other sensible reforms that will help bring down the cost of health care. 

We're not letting Senate Democrats off the hook, either. Their refusal to negotiate has also hurt the ability of Congress to govern and the federal government's ability to function.

If federal employees are given retroactive pay -- and why should they be made to suffer for bad behavior in Congress? -- the government shutdown is costing taxpayers money and inconvenience.

This is no way to run a country.

The way members of Congress are elected feeds into the continuing and building polarization of our nation. Congressional districts have been drawn in a way that fuels extremism. Moderate congressmen are at great risk of being targeted in primary elections by extremists within their own party.

Under the primary system used in Indiana and many other states, voters have to ask for either a Republican or a Democratic ballot. An open primary, in which voters are able to vote for both Republicans and Democrats, just as in a general election, would weaken extremists' grasp on the two parties. Indiana should switch to this open primary system.

When U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., was Indiana's secretary of state, legislative leaders rebuffed his effort to "rethink redistricting." Rokita proposed common sense reforms to make the redistricting process better for the voters than for the incumbents. That plan should resurface quickly.

Those recommendations address long-term responses to lurching from one crisis to the next. But the immediate dilemma demands immediate responses as well.

Job One for Congress is to restart the federal government. Then, keeping in mind the debt limit is very near, begin making responsible spending decisions.

A continuing resolution does not allow for bad programs to see funding reduced or eliminated. That's why a budget is needed.

Congress needs to approve budgets each year, but that won't happen when the House and Senate refuse to compromise. House Republicans and Senate Democrats have repeatedly drawn the same line in the sand. Erase those lines.

Work continuously now on a continuing resolution to get the federal government back to work. Then set a deadline for approving a budget, and if both houses can't get that done within a reasonable time -- keeping in mind the new fiscal year has already begun -- the majority parties in both the House and Senate should choose new leadership. If changing the leadership doesn't work, do it again and again until Congress finally becomes functional again.

Representatives and senators are elected to govern, not to play hardball politics to hurts the economy and makes Americans suffer.

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