The federal budget brawl

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.


51 comments Add your comment

Dusty

October 4th, 2013
11:57 am

Bernie,

I don’t know where you live and you don’t know where I live. But if any that live within twenty five miles of you and me are starving someone must have tied them down. Children get breakfast and lunch at school., Food banks are open for many, Medicaid is supplied by Georgia but you have to enroll, Grady and state and county clinics are open for health. Most churches have funds or resources for begging indigents who come every day. The Salvation Army, The Mission, and many other organizations offer help and free food. Some even offer lodging. There is a very long list of people and agencies helping the poor and needy.

You will help the poor and needy much better if you act responsibly instead of wild guesses to promote your personal politics.

Daria Essex

October 4th, 2013
11:32 am

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Mary Elizabeth

October 4th, 2013
9:31 am

A small group of intensely ideological members of Congress can never be allowed to control an entire nation through their devious means. They could conceivably destroy America’s economy and thereby the world’s economy if they are allowed to get away with it. In our democracy, with its strong governing system of checks and balances, a strong Presidency is essential. That is why President Obama will never yield to this radical group of extremists. This cannot become a predecence for the future in governing.

zeke

October 4th, 2013
9:06 am

WERE YOU FOOLS IN THE 4TH DISTRICT STUPID ENOUGH TO HAVE RE-ELECTED THIS MORON? NO SURPRISE AS YOU ELECTED COMMIE MCKINNEY MANY TIMES! DID YOU EVER HEAR WHAT THEY WERE SAYING? I know you probably listened to their speeches, but, DID YOU EVER HEAR THE STUPIDITY THEY WERE PROMOTING???

Bernie

October 4th, 2013
8:40 am

If The Republican Party were around during the DAYS of JESUS! They would be the first to charge him as being a Liberal Communist Socialist Marxist Traitor Muslim, who would give the Roman Empire’s entire Treasury to take care of ALL of The POOR & NEEDY.

Crucify Him, NOW!…They would ALL scream.

Change

October 4th, 2013
8:00 am

The Constitution was supposed to protect the minority from the will of the majority. So much for that.

Whirled Peas

October 4th, 2013
7:55 am

It is Barak Obama and the Democrats who have put their thumb in the eye of the American people. Survey after survey has shown that the American people don’t want this mess called Obamacare.

And wait until they realize that to fund Obamacare they have stolen $700 billion from Medicare/Medicaid. What they have done is shifted (or tried) is shifted the cost of Obamacare to the States who will now have to find the funds to pay for healthcare for the poor. And to Doctors who will bear the burden.

We need to do whatever we can to get out of this mess created by Obama and Reid.

Mike

October 4th, 2013
7:32 am

Mr. Westmoreland fails to mention the Republican party is NOT representing the will of the American people; that the minority party is trying to force their agenda on the majority in gross violation of the Constitution and the democratic process which they proclaim to hold so dear.
If the roles were reversed and it was a Democratic House holding the nation hostage until a Republican President and a Republican held Senate agreed to increase taxes on the rich by 15%, Rush Limbaugh’s head would explode and the wrath of the Republican party would be felt across the ocean.
But somehow, when the Republican party pulls this kind of political blackmail it is acceptable?
Mr. Westmoreland appears to have forgotten it was the House Republicans who brought out the pistol and held it to the Nation’s head. Would he negotiate with a terrorist?
The patent and bald-faced lie that the Republican party is not responsible for the government shutdown proclaims to the world just how stupid they feel the public and their constituents must be.

An observer

October 4th, 2013
6:55 am

Bernie. Feel free to buy the bonds. It is your money to waste if you choose. By the way, China’s total holdings of US bonds has decreased in recent years.

Bernie

October 3rd, 2013
11:56 pm

Dusty @10:48 pm – There are Thousands of them within (25) twenty-five miles from where you are this very moment. Wondering when and where they will have their next meal. Many of them looking exactly like YOU! with names like DUSTY, jimbob, junior, josh, sara, kelly, tina, and Tricia. Whose Mothers are hard working women who work long hours for very little pay.

You do not see them, for you do not CARE or ever want to see them……as most Christian, Jesus loving following God fearing, family value PRETENDING, red blooded American Republican and their supporters like you.