When irresponsible pols grasp at fig leaves

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By Hal Rhodes

As this column is being written, nearly 1,100 civilian employees at Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base are furloughed from their jobs.
The national labs are poised to shut down, and 400 workers at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo are without their jobs.
More than 750 Bureau of Land Management employees statewide have been sent home, leaving the fate of pending oil and gas leases on hold.
Forbes ranks Albuquerque among the nation’s Top 10 “most at-risk cities” because of the government shutdown.
The Huffington Post cites New Mexico one of the 10 states “most impacted” by shutdown.
All Small Business Administration offices in the state are closed, thereby grinding to a halt New Mexico small business loans that either were or might have been in the pipeline.
Yet United States House Speaker John Boehner has steadfastly refused to let members of that body vote on a clean, uncluttered and straight-forward measure that would reopen the nation’s government. Meanwhile the clock is ticking on prospects that the United States will default on its debts this week — Thursday — unless the Republican Speaker permits members of the House to raise the debt level.
Passing a budget resolution and raising the debt limit are routine congressional obligations, annual housekeeping duties, which go with serving in Congress. But Boehner has political problems. To remain speaker he must kowtow to an extreme faction of Tea Party radicals with sufficient numerical clout to determine whether he holds on to his speakership.
Reliable estimates are that, out of 233 House Republicans, perhaps no more than 30 are hard-core Tea Partiers. Another 30 or so House Republicans characteristically follow their Tea Party colleagues’ lead.
Virtually everyone — Republican, Democrat and otherwise — familiar with U.S. House politics today knows that if Boehner simply let a clean, unencumbered, budget resolution and a straight-forward debt bill come to the floor, it would pass by sturdy bipartisan majority. The combined votes of House Democrats and sensible House Republicans would carry the day.
That would alienate the Tea Partiers, however and jeopardize Boehner’s hold on his speakership. But is being Speaker of the United States House more important than acting responsibly?
Where’s the honor of being speaker if you lack courage to lead, if you cave before the few rather than lead the many?
Only a few right-wing Republican wackos in Congress think closing down the government and defaulting on our debts are rational things to do. All else know the folly of it.
Which brings us to New Mexico’s District 2 Republican Congressman Steve Pearce.
Pearce must know that neither default nor shutdown is meritorious, let alone wise, goals to pursue. Yet he consistently voted for what he knew to be doomed budget resolutions “defunding” the Affordable Care Act, accompanied by pious press releases about how “I had hoped that a shutdown could be avoided.”
And, then, he had the gall to blame the Senate Democrats for shutting down the government.
So absurd were the congressman’s pronouncements that a leading newspaper in his own district felt compelled to blow the whistle on him.
Said the Carlsbad Current-Argus in a recent editorial, “You can try to present this as principled stance worth the pain it causes, or you can try to present it as all the doing of the other party. But you can’t try to present it as both.”
In short you can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth and not to be called on it. Nor can you feign to be House Speaker while abdicating your responsibilities.
So as these lines go to the editor, we find the congressional Boehners and Pearces grasping for fig leaves, desperate to obscure their shortcomings.