A pointless, lost battle that never needed to be fought


That’s it?

We shut down the government for nearly three weeks for this? What did anybody get out of it?

The tea party Republicans who initially refused to pass a budget resolution untainted by yet another failed attempt to delay the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act got nothing; the act is still in force. The initial long list of demands Republicans were considering in exchange for raising the nation’s debt ceiling — including authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, reforming the tax code and rolling back some environmental regulations? Forgotten.

All of the drama was for nothing. A budget discussion that was sidetracked by the shutdown will now take place, but it would have happened anyway. It turns out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was absolutely right when he said two weeks before the shutdown that it would be a futile gesture. He may well have added unnecessary, useless, destructive and pointless.

And some of Nevada’s own Republican representatives helped it happen.

“Government by crisis is not an effective way to govern,” said Rep. Joe Heck, in a statement, after voting for the bill that re-opened the government and lifted the debt ceiling. That’s absolutely true. But it also begs the question: Why did Heck help occasion a crisis by voting for yet another doomed attempt to kill a law that Republicans have repeatedly failed to stop? He knew the likely outcome of that kind of brinkmanship was a government shutdown, and he cannot avoid his share of the responsibility for it.

“I am deeply disappointed this legislation did not include spending reforms to address this administration’s spending addiction,” Heck added. Well, good news: The legislation provides for a budget conference that will squarely address spending issues. But it will do so within the regular order of business, with the government open and operating, not against the backdrop of a take-our-ball-and-go-home tantrum.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller did not lend his vote to the final deal, saying, “I wanted to be able to support a deal, but this proposal makes no underlying structural changes that will prevent this exact same crisis from happening again in the very near future.” Indeed, another set of deadlines comes just after the holidays, and another shutdown could occur. But it won’t, if people such as Heller agree that closing down the government is something that should never happen again.

Oh, and by the way, the shutdown-ending bill wasn’t designed to make underlying structural changes: It was designed to re-open the government and give both sides time to negotiate longer-term structural changes. Heller’s not wrong when he says “only by passing a long-term budget and all spending bills on time can Washington, D.C., break this cycle of economic brinkmanship.” Now, let’s hope Republicans and Democrats will work together to do that, with the idea of another shutdown or possible default off the table for good.

Rep. Mark Amodei was unapologetic about his vote against the bill: He says he will continue fighting “runaway federal spending and the harmful aspects of the Affordable Care Act,” even if he has to fight “the Senate, the administration, the national media and the other side of the aisle in the House.”

“My conscience is clear with respect to an all-out effort in a four-against-one fight,” Amodei said. “I now know how those folks at the Alamo felt.”

But Amodei wasn’t defending American soil against hostile invaders — he was intentionally grinding his own government to a halt in an already-lost cause. A better example would be a Japanese soldier on a deserted Pacific island, fighting anyone who comes ashore, pathetically unaware that the war ended long, long ago.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.