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Robinson: Obama must not yield on debt, health care

  • (MIKE SMITH / Las Vegas Sun)

Republicans in the House are like a bunch of 3-year-olds playing with matches. Their hapless leaders don't have the sense to scold them and send them to their rooms — which means President Barack Obama has to be the disciplinarian in this dysfunctional family.

Mature adults in the GOP should have explained reality to these tantrum-throwing tykes long ago: It simply is not within their constitutional power to make Obamacare go away. They can scream at the top of their lungs, roll around on the floor, hold their breath until they turn blue, waste everybody's time with 41 useless votes — whatever. All they can really do is hurt themselves or others.

Yet here we are, with Speaker John Boehner cowed into letting his members threaten to shut down the government unless they are allowed to stay up all night watching television and eating candy. Also, unless the Senate and Obama agree to nullify health-care reform before it fully takes effect.

I happen to believe that Obamacare is a great accomplishment, providing access to medical insurance to millions of Americans who lack it and bringing the nation much closer to universal health care. It's an imperfect law, to be sure, but it could be made much better with the kind of constructive tinkering that responsible leaders performed on Social Security and Medicare.

Even if Obamacare were tremendously flawed, however, it would be wrong to let a bunch of extremist ideologues hold the country hostage in this manner. If Republicans want to repeal the reforms, they should win the Senate and the presidency. If not, they're welcome to pout and sulk all they want — but not to use extortion to get their way.

At issue is not just the threat of a federal shutdown, which will happen Oct. 1 unless Congress passes a continuing resolution to fund government operations. The debt ceiling has to be raised before the Treasury hits its borrowing limit, which will happen around Oct. 18. If House Republicans don't kill or neutralize Obamacare with the funding bill, they are ready to threaten the nation — and the global economy — with a potentially catastrophic default.

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