Moderated by Rick Badie
Today, we address the U.S. government shutdown, the nation’s first in 17 years. Who’s to blame? And was it “completely preventable,” as President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to federal government employees? Our guest writers share their perspectives on the budget brawl between Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats: Set pride aside
By Lynn Westmoreland
The two major political parties in this country have different opinions on how best to govern, often leading to disagreements. In the past, disagreements were resolved through communication. Unfortunately, both President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to negotiate and communicate with House Republicans to stop the government shutdown.
In an interview earlier this week, the president told NPR that he “shouldn’t have to offer anything” when it comes to the budget or debt ceiling debates. Sen. Reid told reporters he is “not going to negotiate.” There are reports he has urged the president to not meet with House Republicans at all.
I have said time and again that House Republicans don’t want a government shutdown. This is evident by the number of bills we have passed to try to stop the government from doing it. The House has passed four full appropriations bills and three separate continuing resolutions. They would have responsibly funded the government while protecting the American people from the harmful impact of the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats have rejected all of our attempts, not just by voting them down but by refusing to even debate and vote on two of the three.
The House sent the Senate legislation that would allow the two chambers to hold a conference to negotiate. Traditionally, when the chambers in Congress create different pieces of legislation, a “conference,” of both chambers is formed so the two sides can hammer out differences. Once again, Sen. Reid refused to debate the bill.
Twice this week, House Republicans tried to ease the pain of the shutdown by passing several, small, short-term bills that would reopen national parks and memorials, end the delay of veteran benefits and give the District of Columbia the authority to use its own revenue to continue daily operations. The bills would also provide funding for cancer research and pay military personnel in the National Guard and Reserve.
In all, the House has passed four appropriations bills, four pieces of legislation that could have averted this shutdown over the last two weeks, and five additional pieces of funding legislation that would help ease the shutdown. The Senate has only voted on one.
Because Senate Democrats and the president are refusing to communicate with House Republicans except through the media, it’s unclear what will happen next. However, I want to reassure everyone the House is still hard at work. We will continue to pass small continuing resolutions to try to open up as many portions of the government as we can. But our hands are tied unless Senate Democrats are willing to set aside pride and come to the negotiating table.
Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, a Republican, represents Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District.
House Republicans don’t get it
By Hank Johnson
House Republicans control just one-half of one of the three branches of government, but they seek to impose their will on the majority.
Love it or hate it, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. It was passed by Congress, signed into law by President Barack Obama, declared constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and ratified by a majority of Americans when they re-elected the president for a second term.
The tea party wing of the Republican House caucus is holding America hostage in a selfish and reckless attempt to undo what has been lawfully done. Shutting down the government unless Congress kills Obamacare would destroy the extension of health care to 50 million uninsured or underinsured Americans. This attempt to kill this hard-won victory is undemocratic and destructive to the nation’s economic recovery.
A resolution funding the government sits in the House awaiting a vote. If Republican leadership would allow a simple “yes” or “no” vote on the “clean” continuing resolution already passed by the Senate, it would pass, and the government could reopen.
Even though they’ve already voted 45 times to defund or delay the health care law, this group of House Republicans is so obsessed with sabotaging the ACA that they’re willing to take the nation’s economy hostage.
While the shutdown is bad enough, we now face the prospect extremists will repeat this plot with the upcoming vote on raising the debt ceiling, which could cause the U.S. to default and cause a global economic crisis.
The consequences of the shutdown are already being felt: 800,000 government employees out of work, more than a million working without pay, offices that provide important services shuttered, and hungry children who depend on nutritional programs cut off from assistance. Some in Congress think it’s a good thing to shut down the government to exact ideological demands — costing the nation $150 million a day and about $1 billion a week.
Why? So we can put insurance companies back in charge? So we can prevent 50 million Americans from getting affordable insurance? So insurance companies can discriminate against women and people with pre-existing conditions?
Since going live at midnight Oct. 1, healthcare.gov has been visited more than 3 million times. Enrollment for 2014 has officially begun.
To all of this, my Republican colleagues say, “No.” They do so at the nation’s peril.
According to a new Quinnipiac poll, 72 percent of Americans are opposed to Congress shutting down the federal government to block implementation of the ACA. Nearly 60 percent of Americans reject cutting off funding to stop the law.
The obsession of the tea party with destroying health care reform and wounding the president has led Republicans astray.
A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll shows a plurality of Americans say that causing political problems for President Obama is now the GOP’s top priority in Washington.
The American people understand. Why don’t House Republicans get it?
Hank Johnson, a Democrat, represents Georgia’s 4th Congressional District.