barack_obama_66.jpgIn the strongest language yet, President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is holding firm on keeping the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act out of negotiations on the federal budget because “we can’t make extortion routine as part of our democracy.” He added that he told House Speaker John Boehner that he is willing to negotiate with Republicans but not under threat of “economic chaos.” Good for him.

This is clearly a leader with backbone standing up to the schoolyard bullies who are holding the nation’s budget hostage to their over-zealous effort to repeal the president’s signature accomplishment: bringing affordable health care to millions of Americans.

Mr. Obama has given no indication that he plans to blink first and in that determination he has the support of Americans who admire the clear-headed thinking which he has brought to the presidency despite sustained efforts to destabilize him even before he took office in his first term. Current polls reflect an overwhelming number of Americans support the president’s refusal to bend.

Now that they are not getting their way on the health care law by holding the budget for ransom, the Republicans are making noises about taking another captive, the debt ceiling, which is the level of borrowing allowed to the administration to pay national obligations.

The budget crisis has brought important segments of the federal establishment to a standstill. Defaulting on the debt ceiling would be disastrous for the American and global economies. But they are persisting in their remarkable bone-headedness.

It would really have been difficult to envisage that any national lawmaker would be so ideologically driven, if that is what it is, as to shut down the government and make America a deadbeat on an issue that has nothing to do with the budget or the debt.

But it has happened and they must not be allowed to get away with it. It will set a scary precedent for any lawmaker or group of lawmakers to blackmail a president into acquiescence, as the president has correctly said.

The Republicans are being irresponsible to a degree that brings shame to the institution of Congress. There is indeed a time to stand up for principles but this is not what is happening among the extreme right wing of the GOP. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog.

The libelous criticisms of the health care law, starting even before it was passed by Congress, are merely being used to build reputations, as in the case of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and provide a platform for the so-called tea party to maximize its exposure on the national stage.

The wonder is that they are getting at least some traction out of it, getting away with jeopardizing America with their grandstanding and self-aggrandizement.

Hold firm, Mr. President. The nation is with you.