One of the biggest ironies of the government shutdown fiasco is that even though an estimated 800,000 federal employees were sent home from work without pay today, the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Exchanges opened for business.
So even though it’s almost a sure thing those 800,000 workers may not get paid for several days and may not get paid for those days ever, average citizens were logging on in droves to examine the new health insurance exchanges – the action House Republicans were trying to forestall in their continuing budget resolution.
Years ago, I heard a National Cotton Council leader tell a congressional hearing that “We too often cause to happen that which we seek to prevent.” The farmer was talking about a provision in that year’s farm bill, but truer words were never spoken about the current situation in Washington.
House Republicans were trying to delay the implementation of Obamacare by one year. Instead, they just helped attract more attention to the opening of the exchanges, so much so that the healthcare.gov had to be restarted at one point because so many Americans were trying to get on the health insurance exchange website.
On the farm bill the expiration of the 2008 law at midnight Monday was almost an afterthought given the acrimonious debate that occurred on the floor of the House as members came to realize a shutdown of the government was seemingly inevitable.
That’s despite calls by every major farm organization in the country imploring the Congress to pass a new farm bill before the 2008 farm law expired and forced USDA to revert to the permanent law or the 1949 Agriculture Act.
At this writing, most of the country remains focused on the shutdown of the government and the loss of paychecks and services by government employees and agencies across the country.
At some point, however, someone will demand that USDA begin enforcing the parity provisions of the 1949 law. When that happens, it’s difficult to estimate how high prices of milk, grains and other prices of the so-called program crops will go.
Given the speed at which the House Republican leadership has been moving to pass a new farm bill, it is doubtful to most observers that this Congress could possibly pass a new farm law this month or the next even if the government reopens for business. In fact, given this Congress’ track record there may never be another farm bill and the country will be stuck with the provisions of the permanent law.