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
6:50 pm

Bernie…sigh…

Until you are appointed gate keeper in heaven, I suggest you withhold judgment on who is doing “good” and who is not.

Let me know if you get the gate job. Big trouble! I already know where you want to send Republicans… .

Dusty

October 4th, 2013
6:33 pm

Mary Elizabeth,

There are extremist in every political party and Democrats are not exempt from them. In fact, I think Reid and Pelosi are just as extreme as those you label Tea Party. Speaking of Tea Party members, I have no idea who might or might not be a Tea :P arty member in Congress. Nor do I know if there are Democrats who might be socialists or communists. I believe members of Congress have the right to join any legal organization they wish. .

Just because someone does not agree with your views, you label them “extremist”. What does that make you?.

I think the government is getting too big and too controlling. You think we need more so we disagree. You might consider looking calmly at both sides for a change..

Bernie

October 4th, 2013
5:02 pm

Dusty @11:57 am – Deflecting your argument does not make any of your claims more True or believable. ALL know it is your political party and supporters are UN-Christian like when it comes to the Poor & Needy of America. If at anyway possible to DENY Government Funding and support for the very programs you speak of Your Party will find it.

Mary Elizabeth

October 4th, 2013
4:46 pm

Dusty, your thinking relative to my post is completely off-base. I mentioned the necessity for a check and balance form of government. That means that I believe that “balance of power is essential.” The radical Congress members to whom I was referring are the under the influence of thoseTea Party diehards who are trying to take away balance in our nation because of their aversion to “government,” as they keep saying, in most of its forms, such as “government” public schools . That is out-of balance thinking, imo, and that is why it is “radical.” There must be a balance between “government” programs and regulations and “free market” enterprise, instead of exclusively one or the other. (See Robert Reich’s film, “Inequality for All.”)

You state that I have a “devotion to a one man rule.” That is simply your perception of my thinking and you are completely wrong about my thinking. I have never stated that I believe, much less that I am “devoted to,” a “one man rule.”

I do believe that the Tea Party members of Congress who are trying to dominate our entire governmental, democratic process through their coercive take-over by shutting down our government unless their demands are met regarding Obamacare are “radical” in their views and in their approach. If they are elected by constituents who believe as they do in governing, then those constituents are, also, radical in their beliefs, imho, because they are extremists. This small Tea Party minority of one House of Congress, within a three-part check-and- balance form of government, cannot be allowed to dominate what this nation will decide regarding its policies, through coercion and threats of closing down our government.

The majority of the citizens of this nation elected President Obama for a second term and the majority of citizens of this nation want his policies enforced. That is not “one-man-rule”; that election decided what the people want implemented.

ncgreybr

October 4th, 2013
2:35 pm

Dg said on the 3rd: “Obama Care was voted down at least twice by the American people but unfortunately behind closed doors shady deals took place that allowed this misuse of power.”

Duhhh. I remember Congress voting Yes on “Obamacare ” but never the American people voting it down. When did this happen? Also, “behind closed doors”? I remember the insessant hearing on C-Span…the CONSTANT incessant hearings on C-Span EVERY day for months! There must have been a thousand hours AT LEAST! If someone didn’t see some of it, they just didn’t WANT to see it! It was boring as hell! How did that people keep their eyes open?

Rep. Westmoreland says “The House has passed four full appropriations bills and three separate continuing resolutions.” That’s not true. In typical Republican fashion, he is lying. Unfortunately he sees nothing wrong with this. The appropriations bills were not “full” bills. They were partial bills. They left out the funding for the Affordable Care Act. If they are so proud of themselves, why do they have to lie about thier actions?

LVG

October 4th, 2013
1:43 pm

Wetmoreland:
“”"”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.”"”

Sir- how much has the President already negotiated in the sequester and the budget? How much more was cut in the Senate budget you and your fellow anarchists refuse to adopt?
How much have you and your cronies cut out of Obamacare so that the working poor get no coverage under Medicaid unless provided by their employers who you claim to be championing? or would your rather that 40-50 million working poor just go to an ER or community clinic and who do you think pays for that in the end??????????????????????????
Where was your outrage under George W when he spent over a trillion dollars for a war that was based on a lie with no funding source other than a Chinese credit card?
and surely you had no problem giving free drugs to the elderly under George W so he could get reelected with no funding source.
Mr. Westmoreland – you are a prime example why Bobby Jindal calls the GOP the stupid party.

LVG

October 4th, 2013
1:35 pm

The esteemed Mr. Westmoreland says:
“”"”"”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.”"”
Mr Westmoreland- how much has the President and the Democrats conceded already by reducing tax increases they wanted and by instead agreeing to the seq

Dusty

October 4th, 2013
1:28 pm

Bernie,

I see you have changed your emphasis from the “poor and starving” to the “working poor”. Those two are not wholly the same as you now try to say. The working poor are WORKING. Their problems are not the same as homeless.and starving which you picture. Theirs is a problem of income and affordability which present many difficulties in these hard times. But they are trying.

What you want is total support by government for the poor. That concept has almost destroyed the American principle of overcoming adversity by sheer strength and perseverance of the individual. It is a killer of advancement.

There has to be a center policy that helps but does not control. Americans have a long history of helping the poor. They will not approve of total support which destroys any thought of independence and independence is the strength of America.

It has raised the personality of “why work when you can get it for nothing” .

Bernie

October 4th, 2013
12:42 pm

Dusty @11:57 am – The very programs that only address the issue around the edges while totally disregarding the WORKING POOR. The same programs You, your Governor, Political Party and its supporters would be DELIGHTED in Glee, if those programs were terminated and ceased to be funded by the STATE as well as the Federal Government funding. Thank GOD we have a President who has more compassion that a chunk of COAL like those you endear yourself too so much.

As stated before you do not care to see or know!

Dusty

October 4th, 2013
12:18 pm

Mary Elizabeth

Those “radical people” in Congress you mentioned happen to be elected officials by voters. They are there because our Constitution offers balance to representatives of the people to offset any single power rulers of this country. You seem to forget that in your devotion to a one man rule.

Try to remember.. President Obama was elected by the people but so was Congress. You cannot dismiss Congress just because you don’t like their actions.

Balance of power is essential. America is noted for that because it is essential for freedom.