U.S. Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield says a different focus for the Republican Party may have been more effective in negotiations during the 16-day partial government shutdown earlier this month. Whitfield made his remarks in a weekend WKMS interview.
Whitfield said Republican uproar over the Affordable Care Act was understandable because, he said, the overreaching public law is riddled with problems the federal and state governments are battling. Because of that, though, Whitfield said he believes portions of the law upon which Republican scrutiny is centered will fall apart regardless of Congressional opposition.
“There are so many problems with Obamacare, I think it may collapse on its own weight,” he said.
Whitfield stressed how easy it is for legislators to throw blame on their own party after highly publicized federal impasses like the ’13 Shutdown, but, he said, there were more realistic goals Republicans could have sought at the negotiating table.
“I think we would have been better off truthfully (focusing on) mandatory spending,” he said. “That’s where all the growth is in government. And the president has said that he’s willing to talk about that.”
But Whitfield said the fault of the government shutdown that halted fallen veterans benefits, closed national parks and cost the country about $24 billion may lie in the U.S. budgeting process.
Before the 1974 Budget Reconciliation Act, the House built the federal budget only on the recommendations of the president. After ’74, Whitfield said, multiple proposals from key legislators in both houses, along with executive funding measures were all mashed together, freezing compromise and causing appropriation headaches.
Why? Whitfield said legislators are appealing their budget proposals to the American people. That makes for hotly contested issues and funds taken hostage by opposing parties – enough to even shut down the government.
“Because Obamacare is so unpopular, efforts were made to repeal it (or) defund it, and so that reached a high pitch and the government shut down,” he said.
He said an easy quick fix would be to lengthen the amount of time a single U.S. budget covers to two years, giving Congress more time to sort out big issues before the lead to fiscal cliffs.
“The way that we get around this is we redo the budget process and we go to two-year budgets so that we don’t find ourselves in this situation every single year,” he said.
Even still, Whitfield said some of the lack of compromise stems from lawmakers who lack the time or avenues through which to socialize and seek common grounds.
He wouldn’t go as far as to say there exists a real split in the Republican Party, as some have called it. After all, he said, there exists factionalism among the Democrats as well. But Whitfield did say philosophical differences have slowed the pace of the GOP.
“There’s a significant philosophy difference in many of the Republican members,” he said. “On things like Obamacare, everybody wants to repeal it, but on things like taxes and on strategy, it’s not always the same.”
For that, Whitfield said he really has no solution.
“So when you have emotional issues … and you come from different geographical backgrounds, different philosophical backgrounds, different political parties, it’s difficult to have that trust – to have a meaningful discussion so that you can have that compromise and try to come to some agreements on some of these issues that are really complex.”