Shutdown Continues, House Passes Solutions, President Still Refuses to NegotiateOctober 9, 2013
Beginning on October 1, 2013, the federal government entered a partial shutdown due to a lapse in funding. Prior to this, the House of Representatives offered and passed multiple funding measures to keep the government open. The Senate and President Barack Obama, however, disagreed with some of the bill’s components. Instead of working with House leaders, they chose to let the government shut down over their insistence on a continuation of last year’s funding levels to support the expansion of Obamacare.
I know many Americans are concerned about the government shutdown and it can be disconcerting when our nation’s political leaders cannot get along.
This is not the first time that our country has had a divided government or experienced a shutdown due to disagreements between the President and congressional leaders of opposing parties. However, in prior instances, both the President and respective leaders have found ways to engage in regular discussions to resolve issues.
President Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich were fierce opponents publically, as were President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill, but they always found ways to work together to advance our nation’s interests and their respective policy agendas.
What’s different today is that President Obama has repeatedly and preemptively announced his refusal to negotiate with congressional leaders about operations of the federal government or the level of spending under his Administration.
Congress has a constitutional responsibility and authority to oversee federal spending and the Executive Branch’s execution of the law, including addressing our nation’s unsustainable debt levels and the problems associated with ObamaCare and its implementation.
The President himself has acknowledged some of the failures of ObamaCare by granting waivers to big business, big labor and other special interests, but insists on leaving individual Americans and families exposed to its serious flaws. He has granted these waivers unilaterally even though they are neither authorized by law nor consistent with his enumerated powers in the Constitution.
And now, because of President Obama’s continued refusal to work with Congress, the government remains partially closed.
As the government reaches its second week of shutdown, the House has remained dedicated to reopening our government and has passed several bills to do so, such as:
- Providing benefits to families of fallen heroes – When troops are killed in combat, the Pentagon provides their families with financial assistance, typically within three days, to cover travel expenses to escort their deceased servicemember home from Dover Air Force Base, alleviate funeral costs and provide immediate living expenses. Blaming the shutdown, the Secretary of Defense recently decided not to issue these payments despite Congress passing a law to ensure our troops are paid regardless of a government shutdown. Today, responding to intense public outcry, the White House reversed course and announced it would act immediately to restore benefits.
- Reopening our national parks and monuments – Americans have been rightly outraged to see our own National Park service deny WWII veterans access to the D.C. memorial honoring their service. The Administration has gone out of its way to widen the impact of the shutdown, even spending money to close access to outdoor facilities that have no doors and normally remain open 24/7. The House passed a targeted bill that would end the shutdown for our parks and monuments.
- Making funds available to provide disaster relief to our country and its citizens – Responding to a national disaster fits a commonsense definition of “essential” but apparently not in Washington. To remedy this, the House passed legislation to unshutter disaster relief capabilities immediately.
- Honoring our promise to give veterans the benefits they earned through their service to our country – Just as Americans who earned their Social Security checks are continuing to receive them, Americans who earned veterans benefits should receive them too. The House passed legislation to keep veterans benefits coming until a larger agreement on government funding is reached.
- Granting back pay for federal workers affected by the shutdown – Federal workers aren’t responsible for this budget impasse and shouldn’t be penalized for this shutdown. The House passed legislation that promises federal workers will receive their full paychecks once the budget is resolved.
Unfortunately, the Senate refuses to take up these crucial bills and President Obama has threatened to veto all House-passed bills, except the bill granting back pay to federal workers. This is wrong. The President shouldn’t hold non-controversial spending items hostage over areas where there is real disagreement.
President Obama’s repeated refusals to negotiate on funding our government is hurting our economy, inflicting unnecessary hardships on Americans and putting our country at serious risk of long-term economic damage.
Soon, our nation will reach the maximum amount of debt allowed under law (or the ‘debt ceiling’) for the fifth time since President Obama has taken office. In just five years, our national debt has increased from $10.6 trillion to $16.9 trillion.
My hope is President Obama will engage Members of Congress in the dialogue to address the drivers of our deficit and debt to achieve meaningful long-term solutions. The House of Representatives has – and will – remain committed to passing bipartisan bills to reopen the government, protect the American people from an unworkable healthcare law, and set our nation on a path of fiscal certainty.
Just yesterday, the House proposed establishing a bipartisan working group made up of House and Senate Republicans and Democrats to immediately begin talks to find a path forward.
The American people expect their leaders to sit down and negotiate. We are ready to work to end this funding impasse – we encourage the President and Senate to actively engage in discussions so we can find a common-sense path forward to maintain operations of the federal government.