By David Lias
It’s been a tough week in South Dakota.
A freak blizzard that moved into western South Dakota dumped up to four feet of snow in some areas of our state. It was followed by the unusually mild weather our part of the Midwest continues to enjoy this autumn, and the scene that is emerging is not pretty.
Some producers lost up to half of their herds and early estimates listed herd losses in western South Dakota to be five percent of the total cattle supply.
New reports Tuesday list cattle losses at 60,000 head. That was the first of a one-two punch ranchers and other ag producers have received recently thanks to Washington’s inability to pass a new farm bill. The Livestock Indemnity Program in place to limit the losses cattle producers incur from natural disasters expired with the 2008 farm bill on Oct.1, the first day of the government shutdown.
I mention this out of fear that South Dakota cattlemen may be forgotten as the nation focuses most of its attention on what it perceives to be a much greater problem: The Badlands (gasp) are closed.
How will we survive, not only as a state, but also as a nation, as this travesty unfolds?
I urge everyone to keep those cattlemen in mine, for they can provide a vital role during these tough times.
You’ve probably seen the photo of a vacationer hurling a traffic cone in the air at the Badlands in an act of great defiance to Ted Cruz John Boehner the mainstream media Fox News President Obama.
I mean, it must be Obama’s fault, right? After all, he signed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, during his first term in office after Congress passed it. His signature turned the proposal he introduced and Congress approved for health care reform in the United States from an idea into a law that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld as constitutional.
A major provision of the law kicked in on Oct. 1. In great preparation for this day that will live in infamy, the Republican-run House, in late September, ignored a White House veto threat and used a near party-line 230-189 vote to approve legislation denying money for much of the health care law while keeping the government open through Dec. 15. That measure then moved to the Democratic-led Senate.
That inspired tea party Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other conservatives to speak on the chamber’s floor for more than 21 consecutive hours against Obamacare. It didn’t really stop what everyone was predicting all along – the Senate voted 79-19 to end conservative efforts to derail the bill preventing a shutdown, with all Democrats and most Republicans opposing the conservatives. The Senate used a party-line 54-44 vote to remove the House-approved provision defunding Obamacare, and an identical 54-44 vote to approve the overall bill. The bill, financing agencies through Nov. 15, went back to the House.
Just after midnight on Sunday morning Sept. 29, the House used a rare and lengthy weekend session to shift its demands for restricting Obamacare. By a near party-line 231-192 vote, the House voted to delay implementation of the health care law by a year. It also voted 248-174 to repeal a tax on many medical devices that helps pay for the health care overhaul. The votes sent the revamped shutdown bill back to the Senate.
On the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 30, the Senate removed the House provisions postponing Obamacare and erasing the medical device tax. The shutdown bill moved back to the House. That night, the House approves a new shutdown bill with different demands on Obamacare. It would delay for a year the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance, and require members of Congress and their staff to pay the full cost of health insurance, without the government paying part of the costs. The measure bounced to the Senate.
Later Monday night, the Senate voted 54-46 to strip the House provisions on individual health insurance and federal health coverage subsidies for lawmakers and staff. The bill returned to the House.
On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the federal government’s new fiscal year began. With no spending legislation enacted, a partial federal shutdown begins to take effect. Early Tuesday morning, the House voted to stand by its earlier decision, and requests formal negotiations with the Senate. Even later that morning, the Senate rejected the House effort for formal bargaining.
And that’s why the national parks are closed.
To review, the House tried to defund Obamacare. When that measure went to the Senate, it was rejected, and replaced with a bill that would fund all government agencies through Nov. 15. That prompted the House to try to delay Obamacare for a year. Which caused the Senate to remove those provisions. The House reacted by approving a new shutdown bill with different demands on Obamacare, those demands were rejected by the Senate, so no new legislation that authorizes spending for this fiscal year is approved by Congress.
I guess that’s why the traffic cones put in place to block access to the Badlands are all Obama’s fault.
I hope the vacationer who smugly threw the traffic cone continued his journey in West River to visit ranch country, and help a livestock producer count his dead cattle and calves as their bodies emerge from the melting snow. I’m certain the rancher, in his friendly South Dakota manner, would commiserate as he hears the vacationer’s tale of woe of being denied access to a park.
Oh, and The Hill, a newspaper that reports on the happenings in Washington, is reporting that a private gym used exclusively by members of the U.S. House is still open, but because of the shutdown, members of Congress have to pick up their own towels. In fact, members not only have to pick up their towels – they have to reuse them for their showers, because there is no more laundering service.
Such hardship. I’m sure West River South Dakotans will provide wide shoulders for House members to cry on.