Editorial: Downright dangerous

Published: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho needs to start legislating and stop spewing the kind of rhetoric that has made it impossible to get anything done in Congress.

The Gainesville Republican has developed a bad habit of making extreme statements that appeal only to his staunchest tea party supporters. As the government shutdown stretches on and a debt-ceiling deadline looms, his positions have turned from embarrassing to downright dangerous for the economy.

Yoho began making the national news for all the wrong reasons when he referred to the Affordable Care Act's tax on tanning beds as “racist.” He again did so when he recently told The New York Times that lawmakers trying to defund the act were comparable to civil rights icons such as Martin Luther King Jr.

Yoho showed a similar lack of historical perspective when he told a Gainesville town hall meeting that the act was “the worst thing I've seen happen to this country.”

These kinds of comments were easy to dismiss before Yoho and other hard-core conservatives in the House managed to force a government shutdown. As that shutdown takes an economic toll on the country and his constituents, Yoho's justification for his positions deserves closer scrutiny.

He recently told the Fox Business Network that the act was the “No. 1 job-killing bill in my district.” He provided no evidence to back up the statement, and didn't explain how the major hospitals in his district would benefit from continuing to allow uninsured patients to rely on emergency rooms for primary care.

In that same interview, Yoho discussed a part of the act that might actually have an economic impact on the district's burgeoning biotech sector. Yoho said the act's tax on medical devices would force the manufacturing of those devices overseas.

A measure to eliminate the tax should be a stand-alone bill rather than wrapped into other issues like the debt-ceiling debate, Yoho said. It's hard to reconcile such a position with his support for wrapping the defunding of the Affordable Care Act into measures to keep the government running.

When you represent a faction of the majority party in one house of one branch of government, compromise is essential to get things done. Yoho needs to start acting like a legislator rather than just another talking head on cable news — or a newspaper editorial writer, for that matter.

Despite Yoho's position on the medical-device tax, he has made it clear that the shutdown is simply a prelude to a bigger debt-ceiling fight. If he and other members of the tea party faction of the House are as unyielding on that issue as they have been with the shutdown, the economic repercussions could be devastating.

Some Obama administration supporters have taken heat for comparing Republicans who forced the shutdown to hostage takers or terrorists.

Those kind of comments can be labeled as just as extreme and unproductive as Yoho's statements. But if Yoho and the rest of the tea party faction manage to blow up the economy in order to maintain their ideological purity, it's hard to know what else to call them.

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