Skip to main content

GOP House can't claim to speak for America

By Thomas Mann, Special to CNN
October 4, 2013 -- Updated 1357 GMT (2157 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Thomas Mann: GOP talking point is that the House reflects Americans' views
  • He says that's wrong: Obamacare is law; attempts to nullify it violate the Constitution
  • Mann: GOP in House lost 2012 overall popular vote but kept control because of redistricting
  • He says House can press its views but not recklessly threaten U.S., global economy

Editor's note: Tom Mann is a senior in governance studies at the Brookings Institution and the W. Averell Harriman Chair. His most recent book, co-authored with Norman Ornstein and now out in paperback, is "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism."

(CNN) -- One talking point frequently used by Republicans to justify shutting down the government while trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act is that the House and its Republican majority are more representative of Americans' views than President Barack Obama and the Democratic Senate.

That is preposterous and beside the point.

The ACA is law. End of story. The House Republicans' attempt to nullify a duly-enacted law violates the norms of our constitutional system. It is reckless economically and an egregious affront to our democratic form of government.

Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann

House Republicans have every right to press their views in Congress but not to threaten to blow up the U.S. and global economy by shutting down the government and threatening public default

We have elections for all three key players -- the president, the House and the Senate. If Republicans want to change the law, they must do it the old-fashioned way: Persuade the others to accept their position or win control of the White House and Senate.

House Republicans lost ground in the 2012 elections, lost the national vote for the House by over a million votes and retained a majority only because of favorable districting.

Obama won re-election by 3.9 percentage points and got an overwhelming victory in the Electoral College. Senate Democrats retained their majority despite having to defend more than twice as many seats as the Republicans.

McConnell, Paul caught on hot mic
GOP: Obama is giving us the Heisman

House Republicans represent a distinct minority of public sentiment. They carelessly generalize from the echo chambers of their safe districts to the national electorate.

Polls show a majority of the public opposed to shutting down the government to kill or amend Obamacare. A majority of Americans also oppose its repeal or defunding.

Moreover, a significant portion of those who don't like the law say it doesn't go far enough.

But public opinion doesn't matter at this point. The Constitution provides for an orderly process of making laws and building agreement between chambers of Congress and branches of government.

Blackmail, extortion, hostage-taking and brinksmanship are the tools of terrorists, not legislators.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Thomas Mann.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1615 GMT (0015 HKT)
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1728 GMT (0128 HKT)
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 2225 GMT (0625 HKT)
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
July 26, 2014 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT