Sadly, the final quarter of 2013 is shaping up to look a lot like 2012. The clock is ticking as the U.S. inches closer to two impending fiscal deadlines.
Like last year, Congress must reach a compromise not only to fund the government outside of the normal budget process, but must address the debt limit, which the U.S. could hit anytime from Oct. 18 to early November.
The only card Congress has left to play, at this point, is to pass a continuing resolution, known as a "CR," simply maintaining current funding levels. However, since this is Washington nothing is ever that easy.
Congress hasn't passed a budget since 2009 thanks largely to political bickering, and as a result has funded the government since then with short-term solutions. Once again, some in Congress are willing to threaten a government shutdown to score a political point.
A minority of House Republicans recently attempted to use CR negotiations to "stage" a vote on defunding Obamacare as a way to hold the Senate's feet to the fire and prove their willingness to neutralize the law. This maneuver would have been a waste of time, having no real prospect in the Senate and it exemplifies the "only-in-Washington" mentality that has taken hold. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.) this summer even labeled the shutdown over defund obsession -- "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of."
Yet the pressure from House leadership has not trickled down to the small camp who are bent on seizing the financial deadlines as an opportunity to attack Obamacare's first open enrollment which begins Oct. 1, just as the fiscal year and funding ends Sept. 30.
This dizzying array of back-and-forth is not just a display of Washington's dysfunction at its finest; it also shows the desperation of the anti-Obamacare lot. Over three years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law and one victorious Supreme Court case affirming its constitutionality, opponents are down to the wire and ready to hold the government hostage as open enrollment begins.
Despite political tactics, starting Oct. 1 millions of Americans will have new, more affordable and better options for getting health insurance in the new Marketplace. Starting in January, those same Americans will have the peace of mind that comes with having insurance when their coverage begins.
This is troubling to Obamacare opponents. Not only is there a very real chance that despite American's fear and distrust over the law, they will come not just to like it, but want to protect it.
No wonder the same group in Congress is waging an assault on budget negotiations as a last ditch effort. House Republicans just pulled their own plan to vote on a CR a few days ago. This would be the same plan that was largely panned by Democrats and not even tolerable enough for the House majority.
Ideological differences about federal spending aside, mucking up the budget process is not the proper avenue for pushing through a political agenda.
Americans do not have the stomach for these political gimmicks. Despite their complicated and conflicting views about Obamacare, a clear majority do not want the law defunded as a way of stopping it. Even the latest CNN poll that some consider as indicative of America's distaste for Obamacare shows that most Americans would blame Republicans if they force a government shutdown over the law.
Yet you wouldn't know it from looking at the Congressional calendar. For those who have lost track: the House has voted more than 40 times to repeal or delay parts of Obamacare in one form or another. This amounts to an estimated 15 percent of floor time, or over $17 million dollars in member's salaries.
As we come up on the brink of fiscal drama yet again, Congress would be wise to find a workable solution to America's fiscal woes. Wielding budget threats is a stale tool that Americans have seen before and are over. And quite frankly, we deserve better.