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October 17, 2013

Shutdowns were better in Boehlert's day

The Daily Star

---- — Our relief about the government shutdown ending and the debt limit apocalypse averted is mixed with disgust that the far-right Republican caucus in the House of Representatives caused such unnecessary pain and angst on its quixotic quest to undermine Obamacare. 

This was said on the floor of the United States House of Representatives: 

‘‘There is a dark cloud hanging over this chamber. The tolerance level is going down, down and down. Motives are being questioned. Integrity is being challenged. Name-calling is rampant. Emotionalism is at a fever pitch, with all too frequently nasty results. 

‘‘Mr. Speaker, it is time for all of us to do a little soul searching. Clearly, and sadly, the House is out of order.”

Those words could have — and probably should have — been spoken this week about the deleterious affects of partisan politics on the welfare of this nation.

But instead, they were uttered in 1985 by Sherwood Boehlert, then a second-term member of the House who wound up ably serving our area from 1983-2006.

If Boehlert, a moderate Republican, thought the acrimony in ‘85 was bad, he encountered far more after the Newt Gingrich-led Republican takeover of the House in 1994.

Boehlert often sided with Democrats on issues such as abortion rights and prayer in schools, but he was a fiscal conservative who supported Gingrich during the disastrous — for Republicans — government shutdown in 1995. 

Still, he made it apparent in an interview last week with The Daily Star that he believes the current House playing chicken with the economy was far beyond anything that occurred while he was in office.

“The way they are putting the full faith and credit of the government on the line is irresponsible,” Boehlert said. “You can’t even think about defaulting. Government should be the art of reasonable compromise that should serve the interests of all,” he said. Instead, today “there is partisan gamesmanship and everybody is losing.”

“The minority in the majority is calling the shots,” Boehlert said. “For them, compromise is a sinful exercise.”

Boehlert knows what he’s talking about. Long before the tea party made it fashionable, he faced right-wing Republican primary opponents who were far greater threats to his re-election than any Democrat. 

As for the current Republicans in the House, he said: “They have to explain to their constituents why a group of extreme Republicans ride roughshod over the regular order.”

Given what has gone on over the last few weeks, Boehlert is thankful for at least one thing about a pitiful House that we believe would be far better off if it still had Sherwood Boehlert in it.

“I am glad,” Boehlert said, “I’m not there.”