Today, Congressional Republicans Violate Their Oath of Office

The House has resorted to hostage-taking, rather than the job it was elected to do.

Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President

A photo illustration of what an honest GOP hashtag might look like. (DonkeyHotey / Flickr/Creative Commons)

Like Git er done,” Americans should be yelling at Republicans in Congress: Do yer job!” That’s because Republicans are shirking their sworn duty by both shutting down the government and threatening to default on its bills.

The House GOP closing government services and threatening to default on its bills does the reverse of promoting domestic tranquility and general welfare. It creates domestic turmoil and general chaos.

Before taking office, each member of Congress swears a simple, straightforward oath. It leaves little room for misinterpretation. They vow to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to faithfully discharge the duties of the office.”

High among those duties is paying the government’s bills. Just the threat of dodging that responsibility has serious consequences. Republicans’ 2011 threat to default on government debts cost taxpayers $1.3 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office. Last week, as a government shutdown loomed, the stock market reeled, declining four straight days. The S&P 500 suffered its longest losing streak in a year. Republicans are hurting the economy. They’re jeopardizing the recovery and American jobs. They’re risking full faith and credit” in the United States. They’re not just failing to perform their jobs, they’re doing the opposite of what they swore to do.

The purpose of the U.S. Constitution as stated in the preamble, is pretty clear: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The House GOP closing government services and threatening to default on its bills does the reverse of promoting domestic tranquility and general welfare. It creates domestic turmoil and general chaos.

The Constitution defines the authority of each branch of government. The first two powers it lists for Congress specify that it collects taxes, pays bills and borrows money when necessary. Putting them at the top of the list means the founding fathers gave them high priority.

By shuttering government and threatening default, Republicans in Congress are saying they will not perform the job given Congress in the Constitution. They’re just not going to do it, oath or no oath.

The government closed last night because Congress didn’t pass a resolution financing federal operations. Republicans in the U.S. House have refused to do that unless Democrats pay a ransom in the form of de-funding or delaying the Affordable Care Act. Republicans swore they’d defend the Constitution that establishes the U.S. government. What they’re doing, however, is wrecking that government.

On Monday, as the shut down appeared inevitable, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 128 points, nearly 1%. It’s likely to continue to fall as House Republicans refuse to do their job. The recovery will stall. When the government shut down for 20 days in 1995, the nation’s economic growth slowed by nearly a full percentage point in that quarter. The unemployed will remain unemployed. In fact, they’re now joined by 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed at midnight. Emergency and essential services, such as Medicare and Social Security, will continue, but many others won’t. That includes National Parks, the Federal Housing Administration which insures vast numbers of mortgages, and most of the Environmental Protection Agency, Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

If Congressional Republicans mulishly persist in refusing to do their jobs, the government could be shut down through Oct. 17 when it’s projected that the U.S. Treasury will no longer have enough money to pay bills that Congress has already racked up. If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling before then, the U.S. government could, for the first time ever, default.

What that means is Congress bought a bunch of stuff but will refuse to pay for it. The Average Joe who does that gets smacked with a bad credit rating. And that’s likely to happen to the federal government too. If the United States fails to pay its bills, the faith of the world in the safety of Treasury debt would be shaken. And the result would be that both the government and citizens would pay more to borrow money.

Reaction on Wall Street would be violent. Stock prices would nosedive. That would shrink pension funds and individual workers’ retirement accounts. Some economists predict the cost could be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

That’s what Republicans are threatening to terrorize the American people with by refusing to do their basic job as members of Congress — pay the government’s bills.

Like with the government shutdown, Republicans say they’ll do their job only in exchange for ransom. They’re demanding a long list of changes that they’ve failed to achieve because the public did not elect them to the White House or as majority in the Senate. These include: delaying the Affordable Care Act, approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, eliminating regulations on coal ash, allowing more offshore oil and gas production, blocking new regulations on greenhouse gas production, eliminating some financing for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and limiting medical malpractice lawsuits.

Self-righteous Republicans would be the first to condemn a worker who is fired for refusing to perform his job. The GOP would deny that guy unemployment benefits. They’d jail an accountant who deliberately paid company bills late, damaging the firm’s credit rating. But that’s exactly what Republicans are doing to their employer. They’re betraying America by violating their sworn duty of office.

Leo Gerard is international president of the United Steelworkers Union, part of the AFL-CIO. The son of a union miner; Gerard started working at a nickel smelter in Sudbury, Ontario, at age 18, and rose through the union’s ranks to be appointed the seventh international president Feb. 28, 2001. For more information about Gerard, visit usw​.org.
Subscribe and Save 59%

Less than $2.00 an issue