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PD Editorial: GOP resorts to government by blackmail

  • (DREW SHENEMAN / Newark Star-Ledger)

At a glance, the partial shutdown of the federal government that started Tuesday may seem like just another exercise in political theater.

The mail arrived. Social Security checks are being processed. Air traffic controllers and airport security officers are on duty. Military operations continue unabated around the globe. So does posturing in Washington.

Look deeper, and the impacts of the shutdown become clear.

U.S. Government Shutdown

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So, too, is the culpability of congressional Republicans, especially those in the House, who precipitated this unnecessary, irresponsible and, ultimately, futile showdown. Their goal: derailing, delaying or just discrediting the Affordable Care Act.

At times over the past week, Republicans added other demands — authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline, restrictions on contraception and relaxing environmental regulations. But the target all along was the health insurance program that started enrolling people on Tuesday despite the shutdown.

Since gaining control of the House in 2011, the GOP has staged more than 40 votes to repeal Obamacare. They've gotten nowhere in the Senate, and even some Republican senators disavowed House threats to hold the government hostage unless they get their way on health care.

Desperate to limit the self-inflicted political damage, Republicans now complain that President Barack Obama won't renegotiate the health care law.

Obama shouldn't yield to hostage-taking. The law was drafted, debated and approved in Congress, its constitutionality was affirmed by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court and the president was subsequently re-elected. Moreover, much of the law already is in effect.

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