This is no way to run a country.

by Senator Jeff Merkley.

Across Oregon and throughout America, there are people out of work. There are kids who want to go to college but can’t afford it.  There are bridges literally in danger of falling down and schools with leaking roofs and out-of-date textbooks.

We have big challenges that we should be coming together to try to solve. Instead, the Tea Party has shut down the government and made many of our problems worse.

Here’s the situation: The House and Senate laid out different budgets six months ago, assuming different levels of spending and investment. For the last six months, Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly filibustered every attempt to negotiate an agreed-upon budget.

More recently, to avoid a shutdown, the Senate simply agreed to the House level. Unfortunately and incredibly, House Republicans refuse to accept their own budget unless we accept their ransom demand of gutting or delaying the Affordable Care Act.

It has been widely reported that a majority of the House would vote to pass the bill passed by the Senate and re-open the government, but Speaker Boehner refuses to let the House vote. It’s incredibly irresponsible.

This is an attempt to undermine our usual democratic process by hostage-taking. House Republicans, responding to a small group of Tea Party zealots, are willing to damage the economy, make veterans wait for benefits, and deny kids access to Head Start and to medical trials just to pursue their obsession with blocking millions of Americans from getting affordable health insurance.  

But it’s not going to work. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. It was upheld by the Supreme Court. It was ratified by the public when they re-elected President Obama.

If we give in and let a small group undermine our laws under threat of harm to hard-working Americans, this political blackmail will become the new normal.

We have all sorts of processes for negotiating over policy differences. Threatening grave economic harm unless you get your way isn’t one of them. It’s time to meet our obligations, re-open the government, and pay the bills. Our country deserves better than this.