Can the shutdown be shut down?

Ethan: Let’s pretend I’m Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and you’re Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and let’s see if we can solve this government shutdown thing.

Phil: Don’t you mean the other way around?

Ethan: No, I think it would be good for each of us to try and live in the skin of the other. Try to understand the opposing position.

Phil: You are really asking a lot. But at least you didn’t ask me to be Nancy Pelosi.

Ethan: I do think you’d look good in heels.

Phil: I am more of a pumps man.

Ethan: Fair enough. You are kind of tall.

Phil: OK, so you are the honorable speaker from Ohio and I am … ahem … the honorable majority leader from Nevada. You start.

Ethan: “Harry, let me start by saying I am sorry for all the Neanderthals in my party. I would like to forget about this past week and simply fund the government without blackmailing you into defunding a program that will provide health care to tens of millions and reduce costs for hundreds of millions.” There, that was easy!

Phil: Um, not exactly.

Ethan: What do you mean? I did what any sensible person would do and what I know Boehner would do if the base of his party wasn’t crazy!

Phil: You mean if we weren’t “murderers” like Sen. Angus King called us this week?

Ethan: You (and King) said it, not me.

Phil: OK, here let me try and be Reid for a minute. “John, you are correct. ObamaCare has problems and certainly has plenty of questions. Since President Obama did unilaterally delay the mandate on small businesses, I will agree to be reasonable and enact your proposal to fund the government with a delay of the individual mandate. That way no one will be forced to pay a penalty for not using a system that has not yet been proven to work.” See how easy that was!

Ethan: Hmmm, I am not sure this is working. You can’t honestly believe that Reid should give in to legislative blackmail? You would never do that if you were in charge.

Phil: Well, neither can you believe that Boehner should simply give up on such an important principle to Republicans. Would you give up on a fundamental principle of your party, just because it wasn’t the accepted procedural moment?

Ethan: No, I would fight like hell for a party principle. But my party never shut down or tried to shut down the government to pass universal health care, the way your party is trying to repeal the same. This is a fundamental issue to us, but we took our time and achieved victory through the democratic process created in the U.S. Constitution.

Phil: You do recall the government shut down six times during the Carter Administration under Democratic control in Congress?

Ethan: Yes, but those were all about funding issues. Disagreements about what was and wasn’t funded in the proposed budget. This is purely about ideology. Postponing the individual mandate won’t save the American people one penny. In fact, it will cost us money in the long term.

Phil: You speak about extremists, yet you see no problem with the largest government expansion in my adulthood occurring without one Republican vote. That’s bipartisan?

Ethan: I do see a problem that the Affordable Care Act was not bipartisan, but it’s with your party’s inability to join a bill that has done and will do so much good for America. Who would have ever thought insuring 30 million Americans, decreasing long-term health care costs, and providing more marketplace choice would be antithetical to Republicans?

Phil: Wouldn’t you use your power as speaker to debate the details, find consensus on as much as possible, and get it into law? Instead, you are jamming home a bill that Pelosi said had to be passed in order to understand what was included.

Ethan: Phil, the bill passed. You lost this battle five years ago. The American people elected a president on the promise of health care. He delivered, and they re-elected him. You sound like southerners who still call the civil war the “war of northern aggression.” You cannot agree with these extremists who are laying off Federal Emergency Management Agency workers in Colorado over ideology. And yes, those FEMA workers could be saving lives.

Phil: This is not ideological. As you point out, it passed. And then the Supreme Court affirmed that the president lied when he sold it to the American people. Obamacare is indeed a new tax bill. And may I remind you that your party persisted to overturn “don’t ask, don’t tell” and in Maine overturned same day voter registration, both of which were settled law.

Ethan: However, we didn’t shut down government over either. We used the democratic mechanisms laid out in our federal and state constitutions.

Phil: Here’s the point. Look at the post office, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare and Medicaid — all woefully underfunded and on track to go bankrupt if changes are not made. And now we’re going to add Obamacare? The history of government-run plans have a vivid track record of cost overruns. Why inflict this on the children?

Ethan: And I am sure you would argue that the post office, SSDI, Medicare and Medicaid should not be repealed. But they should be strengthened and made more solvent. And yet your side is unwilling to make changes to the Affordable Care Act. You simply want it repealed. And, unfortunately, repealing it will mean insurance companies will again be able to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and parents won’t be able to keep their kids on their health insurance plans. So, in your parlance, why inflict THIS on the children?

Phil: Well, at least we agree the children should be our top concern.

Ethan: And that you’d look better in pumps than heels.

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