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On “braking” the law


It seems that our lawmakers have become lawbrakers. No, that’s not a typo—although lawbreakers could apply here as well. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was cobbled together, rancorously debated, and finally passed. It was challenged and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. With all its warts and flaws, it is the law. Period. Full stop.

What would happen if either party decided to prevent implementation of any law that does not match the ideology of a minority of its members? There was a flickering moment of hope when some moderate Republicans talked about staging a “revolt” against Boehner and his Tea Party cronies last Monday, but it never came to pass. So the House of Representatives is trying to put the brakes on the ACA, holding the country hostage to its unique ideology by tying continued government funding to measures that would undermine the ACA. But the Democratic-controlled Senate repeatedly rejected those efforts. The strategy didn’t work. Indeed, they shut down the government, but the ACA is moving fully forward—at least until the looming crisis over the debt ceiling arrives.

What kind of precedent is set when one political party refuses to accept laws passed by the other (majority) party? Good question—and one that hasn’t been answered. One reason why the U.S. government used to function smoothly is that the losers in a political debate, by quiet consensus, obeyed the law nonetheless. Republicans opposed Social Security, but obeyed the law once it passed. Democrats opposed the Bush tax cuts, but obeyed the law once it was passed. No one says they have to do it with grace. But really—U.S. Representatives and Senators should be required to obey the laws they pass! What will happen if they don’t? What will happen if lawmakers in either party decide their ideology is above the law they have sworn to uphold?

Whether the federal government shutdown represents another bump on the road for the most dysfunctional Congress in history or signals a more alarming breakdown in the political process could be determined by the reaction of voters and Wall Street. If the people we’ve elected to Congress are incapable of governing, then they’re fully capable of undermining, if not destroying, the “full faith and credit” of the United States. They could very well refuse to raise the debt limit. That is, they could refuse to pay the debts they’ve already authorized! What’s particularly appalling is that this battle is practically upon us. And, what ‘s particularly galling is that we are p

The views and opinions expressed by Perspectives contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.

6 Comments. Leave new

  • Bravo Ms. Curtin. Speaking of ethics, what about the ethical concept of justice? The right wingers are fixated on the mandate, but what about the other good parts of the bill, like not being rejected for insurance because of a pre-existing condition or reaching a ‘lifetime limit”??? Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater….The bill is passed. Let’s honor our country by trying to change it the constitutional way, not by threatening to shut down the government if it’s not repealed.

  • RN seems to forget that nursing ethics requires nurses to involve themselves politically, especially when access to care for their patients is the issue!

  • holding breath until 2016
    October 7, 2013 9:06 pm

    my ” full faith & credit” of the US ended when BO was elected, & was certainly thrown into utter despair with his reelection. his ideaology has signaled the beginning of the end of what used to be a great nation.

  • Ms Curtin is correct. The majority should rule. We have too many people who go without healthcare and the first 2 years of ACA have benefited many so far(some people forget we have already had some of the benefits). Let the process continue and see if being responsible for the cost will promote more healthy habits less smoking, less eating) to prevent some of our most damaging problems in the US.

  • Shame on Ms. Curtain, who never misses an opportunity to stir the pot with her liberal barbs, that have absolutely nothing to do with nursing ethics and good medicine. We’ll care for our patients whether or not they’re legal residents or have insurance, as we always have. You think that because it’s a law, it’s legal? Our Constitution forbids the federal gov’t from forcing a citizen to purchase any product, so socialists call nobamaocare a tax to sneak around the true law. Defund and repeal!

  • What makes the House Republicans’ decision to shut down the federal government an immoral and unconscionable “threat” is that House Republicans who do not have the votes to repeal Obamacare through the processes of democracy and so they closed the federal government, threw hundreds of thousands of innocent government employees out of work, and damaged the nation’s economy because the Senate and the President did not acceded to their demands. By wreaking havoc with the national interest and infli


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