In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: For GOP, progress a small price to pay in shutdown

There was some small chance, of course, that during the lapse between my deadline and this newspaper plopping down on your driveway, Congress underwent a miraculous transmogrification and the United States government has not been sent sputtering into an unfunded torpor.

This would have required personality retrofits as momentous as Miley Cyrus reverting to her Hannah Montana persona. Congress would have had to have lurched from twerking to governing.

It could have happened. The sun might have come up with news that Ted Cruz’s fellow Republicans convened late Monday night and voted to deport him back to his native Canada, passing a continuing resolution as an afterthought.

Or it might have been, as residents of the District of Columbia grasped the implications of a shutdown, that a ranking member of the House of Representatives received a menacing call from the wife, warning him not to mess up her plans to dump the kids off at the Smithsonian while she went shopping. I’ve seen House of Cards. I know how Washington works.

Sobering ramifications loomed with the possibility of a shutdown. But as the deadline approached, the pols weren’t acting all that soberly. They hardly seemed chastened by the prospect of tossing nine million needy moms and babies (including a half-million Floridians) off the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. In the priorities of government shutdown, delivering food, nutritional education and help for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is not considered an “essential service,” like, say, issuing congressional paychecks. Members of Congress must soldier on with their salaries unaffected.

A shutdown would also cause Head Start to start discarding kiddies (1.1 million nationwide, 45,000 in Florida) — though the wild-eyed wing of Congress no doubt figures that it’s high time these damn toddlers were taught the lesson of self-reliance.

The tea party faction knows a shutdown would disrupt research by the National Institutes of Health and disease prevention by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it figures those godless science geeks need the time off to rethink evolution.

Veterans’ disability and pension payments would be clogged up at the VA, but hardliners figure puny hardships hardly matter against the glorious prospect of shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency. Crank up those coal-fired power plants, boys — happy, if slightly leaden days are here again.

Someone might have considered, as midnight approached, that a shutdown would cut percentage points off an already-tepid recovery, with the salaries of 800,000 to a million federal workers extracted from the economy.

Meanwhile, just starting and stopping the government machinery in the 1995 shutdown fiasco cost taxpayers $1.4 billion. But $1.4 billion must seem a small price to pay to stave off far-right challengers in the 2014 primary.

Remember, if the sun comes up Tuesday with the government shut down, there were reasons why the pols in Washington stayed so mindlessly obstinate. Because the tea party gang votes. Head Start kids don’t.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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