This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As far as U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt is concerned, his fellow Republicans in the House are continuing to muddle their original message – that Obamacare is “a disaster” – with serious missteps, including the decision to keep the government shut down.
“Thinking the government being shut down is an acceptable way to move forward, I think probably doesn’t produce any result that’s good and produces a number that are bad,” he told reporters in a conference call Thursday.
“I hope we’ll get the government open quickly,’’ Blunt added.
At the same time, the senator said it was a bad move for House Republicans to propose a short-term increase (until Nov. 22) in the federal debt ceiling without adding conditions.
“Raising the debt ceiling without changing spending behavior is a bad idea, a missed opportunity,’’ he said.
“We don’t gain much by doing that,’’ the senator contended, observing later that a short-term debt-ceilling increase likely wouldn’t do much to resolve the disputes. “I don’t know that we’re in a dramatically different place at Thanksgiving than where we are now.”
Blunt said that Republicans could legitimately make the case that the debt-ceiling legislation was an appropriate vehicle for addressing the nation’s long-term spending problems. Since 1978, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 53 times, he said. In many of those cases, Blunt added, the legislation authorizing the increase had other provisions dealing with government spending or revenue.
Calls for quick end to shutdown
Shutting down the government was the wrong approach, he said, observing that it contributed to the public’s lower opinion of everyone in Washington, Democrats as well as Republicans. (Blunt did acknowledge that the GOP is polling worse.)
“We’re not doing the things that ought to be happening,’’ he said, adding that he’s also critical with how the Obama administration has implemented the shutdown.
As the days go on, the shutdown is “beginning to impact people,” he continued, and making the public recognize that “government serves a role and it’s necessary in many cases. Where it’s not necessary, we frankly should stop doing it.”
The shutdown also is expensive, Blunt emphasized. “The government shutdown costs money, it doesn’t save money. You then spend additional money to start the government back up.”
In previous shutdowns, he acknowledged, federal employees got back pay. The House has passed such a measure this time, although the Senate hasn't acted.
"It's better to pay them for working than for not working.”
His broader message was that the shutdown was the wrong vehicle for Republicans to use.
“The debt ceiling, I thought, was a place to negotiate that had less imminent impact on people than the shutdown did,” Blunt explained. “I also think raising the debt ceiling combined with opening the government gave us at least an end date.”
Laments lack of attention on Obamacare
Meanwhile, he said that Republicans have inadvertently helped Obama by diverting attention away from the technical glitches that have plagued the rollout of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges. They opened on Oct. 1.
The federal online site has had so many problems that officials aren’t even saying how many people have been able to sign up for insurance.
Without the attention on the shutdown, Blunt said that press coverage would have led with “Obamacare launches with real problems’’ instead of “Government shut down.”
For President Barack Obama, August and early September were bad months politically, Blunt said, with various news reports critical of the pending implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Fellow Republicans, he said drily, “figured out a way to change the subject. I didn’t think that was a good strategy at the time and I don’t think it is a good strategy now.”