As the U.S. government went into shutdown mode from October 1 to October 17, many people were left wondering why Congress had failed to enact legislation that would appropriate funds for the 2014 fiscal year. Whether it is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or a divided Congress, there are many reasons as to why teamwork between lawmakers seems in recent times, impossible.
Basic Fundamental Policy Differences
These serve as the underlying and basic differences between the two parties that leads their members to develop distinct opinions on key issues. Republicans tend to be conservative. They want smaller government and less spending. They are advocates of laissez-faire (economy with little to no government regulation) and the elimination of government-run welfare programs in favor of private sector companies and more personal responsibility. Democrats tend to be liberals. They want more government spending, a mixed economy (tempered government intervention) and a prevalent welfare system.
Republicans’ 2010 Congressional Victory
As the Republican Party gained a majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats still controlled the Senate and Obama was still president. This resulted in a divided government because no single party controlled both houses and the White House at one time. This division of power would lead to inevitable clashes over spending priorities and other policy matters.
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
This new law requires that all U.S. citizens have some form of health care (public or private) or they must pay a monthly fee. Government healthcare will be extended to more people. This is a Democrat’s dream but a Republican’s nightmare. In essence this new law expands government and the welfare system. In return, Republicans have been slowing things down in Congress and have refused to sign a budget because they do not agree with Obamacare and want it gone. By not agreeing on a budget and shutting down the government, Republicans have therefore delayed Obamacare.
The Tea Party is a political movement known for advocating reductions in U.S. debt, government spending and taxes. It is generally regarded as the most right wing of the Republican Party. Members of Congress like Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor support and identify with Tea Party values. The Tea Party draws a line between radical and moderate Republicans which creates more division in Congress because the Republican Party has its own inner struggles.
Redistricting is the process of dividing up area to make electoral districts according to their population, which then receive a proportional amount of House members. Each state does this independently from each other. Gerrymandering is the practice of redistricting to make a party have an advantage in a district. Party leaders will draw district lines to incorporate groups with similar ideologies together. This means many districts will almost always vote for a certain party. For example, a Democrat can lean far left in his or her district because there is no need to appease the small number of conservatives in the district. Congress therefore has even more division because its members become polarized.
The debt limit has been agreed upon only until February of 2014. It seems that another estranging dispute between Democrats and Republicans is bound to happen again.