Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

Congress Has Got to Know When to Fold 'Em

By Jared SiegelPublished October 15, 2013

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The Republican led House of Representatives finds itself in a position where it can use the drunken gambler's advice. Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, it has withstood a Supreme Court case and forty-one repeal attempts by the House. Over and over again, Obamacare has faced GOP opposition and weathered the resistance, yet the GOP refuses to fold 'em.
On November 15, 1978, Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers released the song, "The Gambler". The song tells the story of a late night meeting between the narrator and an unnamed gambler who offers to share a bit of esoteric wisdom in exchange for a sip of whiskey. "You go to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run," he professes.

Almost four decades later, the Republican led House of Representatives finds itself in a position where it can use the drunken gambler's advice. Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, it has withstood a Supreme Court case and forty-one repeal attempts by the House. Over and over again, Obamacare has faced GOP opposition and weathered the resistance, yet the GOP refuses to fold ‘em.

Now we witness a Republican party resorting to desperate measures. As of October 1, the new fiscal year has begun and the House refuses to draft a spending bill or a Continuing Resolution that does not include provisions to de-fund Obamacare. On September 24, Republican Senator Ted Cruz spoke for twenty-one consecutive hours on the senate floor about the need to de-fund Obamacare. Yet, Senator Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, has repeatedly made it clear that the Senate has no intention of passing a Continuing Resolution that would include such provisions. With no spending bill or Continuing Resolution, the Federal government is now in "shutdown", which means that 800 thousand federal workers are not being paid and all "non-essential" programs have been cut. Obamacare, however, is still funded during a shutdown and yet again it looks like the Bill will withstand the opposition. The nation is suffering, the economy risks taking a huge hit, and Congress' approval rating is at 10%, an all time low. The House is cutting off its nose to spite its face yet, it refuses to fold ‘em.

The GOP's argument against Obamacare does have its merits. The Bill includes tax hikes, increased health care premiums, threatens job creation, and forces companies to cut their employee's hours. However, the House's unwillingness to give up the fight is undermining the whole basis on which the Federal legislative branch operates. A bipartisan system only works if one party is willing to concede defeat when a Bill is not judged in its favor. When a party does not do so, it facilitates the conditions that gridlock Washington today.

My little league baseball coach told me, "it is only over when the fat lady sings." Well the fat lady finished singing months if not years ago. Its time for the GOP to concede defeat and start a new game with different laws at stake. It's time to fold ‘em.