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The US government shutdown: a nation divided against itself?

What makes the House Republicans’ decision to shut down the federal government an immoral and unconscionable “threat” rather than an ordinary political disagreement? The answer is simple.

House Republicans who do not have the votes to repeal Obamacare through the processes of democracy threatened to close the federal government, to throw hundreds of thousands of innocent government employees out of work, and to damage the nation’s economy unless the Senate and the President acceded to their demands. By threatening to wreak havoc with the national interest and inflicting serious harm on hard-working, loyal public employees, they are attempting to coerce rather than to persuade the government into doing what they want. The House Republicans, in short, are holding the nation itself hostage to their demands. This is not democratic governance. This is extortion, plain and simple. In any other circumstance, this would be criminal conduct.

Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law,

University of Chicago

It didn’t have to come to this. The showdown between House Republicans and the White House, with all the phony drama seasoned with buckets of crocodile tears, wasn’t inevitable. President Obama has been working on this for four years as if the Republicans didn’t exist. The mess is the natural consequence of the no-compromise strategy he has taken from Day One.

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