One of Congress’s most basic Constitutional duties is to pass a federal budget that keeps the government running. Instead, the House Republican majority has shamelessly used this process to engage in ideological hostage-taking – refusing to pass a budget of any sort unless Democrats in Congress and President Obama agree to their demands to abandon health care reform. As a result, at midnight on September 30th, the budget authority for federal agencies elapsed and the government shut down for the first time since 1996. Many government services will be suspended and thousands of federal employees will be told they cannot report to work.
I accept that the Affordable Care Act is not without controversy. In a democracy, we encourage passionate debate over important issues. However, Republicans in the House of Representatives have become obsessed with repealing the law at the expense of many, many other pressing issues we face in this country. They have staged over 40 votes to repeal, defund or delay health care reform. Not one of these measures has passed the Senate and, in any event, the President has promised to veto any legislation that would prevent the health care law from going forward. But Republicans refuse to accept this reality and have resorted to stamping their feet and shutting down the government. That’s no way for responsible legislators to behave.
At this point it is unclear how the current impasse will be resolved. What I do know is that we must stand up to this radical faction or risk emboldening them further in their use of bullying tactics. The same members of Congress that forced the government shutdown have also signaled their willingness to damage the nation’s credit rating to get their way, compiling a list of ransom demands ranging from health care to environmental regulation to tax breaks for millionaires. Americans are right to be angry and frustrated by this overall trend of governance by manufactured crisis. Sadly, it is fast becoming the “new normal” for our democratic processes and institutions.
I was elected to get things done in Congress and I will keep working to foster a different climate, one in which constructive debate and principled compromise carry the day. Thank you for being engaged and demanding that your voices be heard and respected.
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