SALEM — With the federal government shut down, the question lingers: Who is to blame?
The shutdown took effect yesterday, after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a measure that funds the government only if the Affordable Care Act is delayed for a year. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, has rejected the effort to tie the funding resolution to the health care law.
President Barack Obama is supporting the Senate position.
The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” took effect yesterday as scheduled.
As to who gets the blame for the resulting government shutdown, a random survey yesterday found citizens whose displeasure is wide enough to encompass both political parties. Some, however, see specific people at fault.
“All parties are to blame,” said Tyson Lynch of Salem. “But probably more the Republicans. Maybe (House Speaker John) Boehner. Mainly (Texas Sen.) Ted Cruz.”
Cruz famously gave a 21-hour speech criticizing the health care law.
“I think they’re hurting millions of people trying to prevent something that’s going to be implemented anyway,” Lynch said of the Republicans. “They’re like a 5-year-old.
“I don’t know if they understand that the economy is just beginning to improve, and this is going to set us back somewhat. ... But I guess we’re stuck with it.” He blasted members of Congress for vacationing in August when they might have been finding some solution.
By contrast, Nick Barrasso of Danvers blames President Obama and his devotion to the health care law.
“He’s the president. He’s in charge. He’s the boss, Barrasso said. “... Health insurance is a privilege. You get the right job, they give you health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance, it’s on you.”
Even so, he predicts that Republicans are likely to get the brunt of the blame. And he suggests why: “I’m smart enough to know it’s the liberal media.” In fact, he joked, by the time the media is done, they’ll have people believing “it’s Bush’s fault. Put that down. It’s Bush’s fault.”
For others, there is more frustration than any eagerness to limit responsibility.
“I think they’re all to blame,” said Christine Baze of Salem. “Neither side is willing to actually interact and participate in finding a compromise with the other. We look to them to give guidance and help, but instead, it seems like one big mess.”
Baze, a musician, admitted to being frustrated by the disharmony in Washington. “If you can’t play in the middle, nothing will get done,” she said. She spread her hands far apart to illustrate the distance between the two parties.
“Congress,” said David Harris of Danvers, “they’ve got to stop acting like children and start acting like adults.” Each seems a slave to his own agenda, he said, with no ability to meet the other halfway.
“They all need a time-out. ... If you don’t cooperate, you don’t get anywhere.”
Washington seems to lack common sense, Harris added, and he’s not satisfied just because both sides think their position is the right one. “You can’t compromise? You’ve got to shut down the government?”
Peter Sholds of Salem, who runs Witch Way Gifts not far from Derby Wharf, sees the shutdown as more of the same, noting that the Salem Maritime National Historic Site had already reduced services as a result of the sequester, the mandatory budget cuts that kicked in when Democrats and Republicans could not agree on extending the nation’s debt limit.
“There’s been an impact all summer,” Sholds said. To get in the Derby House or board the Friendship, tourists were told to first find their way to the Park Service headquarters downtown, he recalled.
“I’ve had people in here yelling at me. ... Congress — they knew it was coming, both houses. No one’s trying to fix anything. They’re both trying to put their mark on things. ... They’re supposed to be working for the citizens.”
Alan Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.