Saturday, October 5, 2013

On The NIH Patch

I case you missed it, the Republicans have devised a new stratagem to prove that all the bad things happening in the shutdown are really just the Democrat's fault. For example, the shutdown has caused the National Institutes of Health to close one of the experimental research hospitals which normally treats around 200 people including around 30 children with cancer who really have no hope other than experimental types of treatment because all the conventional methods have failed. Closing this cancer treatment program has been a bit of a PR nightmare for the Republicans because they are obviously 100 percent responsible for shutting down the government and thus closing this cancer treatment program along with a lot of other government programs.

The Republicans are now trying to pass a number of "patches" or bills to refund particular agencies and programs including the cancer program. The idea is both to make the GOP's shutdown look less bad and also try and force Democrats in Congress to take tough votes as reopening certain particular programs means that there is less overall pressure on the Republicans to end the shutdown. I doubt that re-opening a few small but highly visible programs will change the political calculations on Capitol Hill but you never know.

And on a broader note let me just say that I’m quite glad to see Republicans are finally willing to acknowledge that the government does in fact do some useful, vital even, things.

But these conservative criticism of Democrats who don't vote refund specific programs strikes me as being pretty bizarre. If it’s okay to criticize the Democrats for voting against the NIH patch, surely it must be even more legitimate to criticize the GOP for shutting the NIH down in the first place. The fact remains that the Republicans are pursing of policy of hostage taking, first with a government shutdown and now with a potential debt limit breach. They and they alone are responsible for the unfortunate side affects, like denying children access to life saving cancer treatments.

As another Republican politician put it: “Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events. This, plainly stated, is your language…

In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, “Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!”"

I really doubt this strategy will bear much fruit. But it's important to remember what a pathetic and awful argument it really is.

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