Government shuts down, local leaders react

Dee DeQuattro

As of 12:01 a.m. the federal government went into a partial shutdown as Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a budget plan for the nation.

The debate over the federal spending bill lasted for hours with both Republicans and Democrats going back and forth. The Republican controlled House of Representatives would pass a budget that took funding away from President Obama's “Affordable Care Act,” and then send it to the Democratically controlled Senate who would restore the funding and remove the Republican amendments before sending it back to the House for final approval. There the bill inevitably failed.

In the evening on Monday, the Democrats and Republicans attempted to set-up a bipartisan conference committee to negotiate the two bills, however the efforts failed. Democrats, along with President Obama, urged Republicans to pass what they called a “clean” spending bill, one free of amendments. The amendments, were something many Republicans deemed necessary to stall and in some cases defund the new health care law.

As a result of the shutdown, 800,000 government workers nationwide will be send home from work this morning after closing down their projects or sights. Workers deemed essential to American's lives or National Security will be allowed to work.

In Rhode Island lawmakers suggest that 7,000 jobs will be affected by the government shutdown.

Here is what local elected officials have to say:

Senator Jack Reed: The Republican leadership is out of touch with the realities of middle-class families.  The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.  Rolling back health reform and denying health insurance to 30 million Americans doesn't help the economy and it doesn't create jobs.  It will do quite the opposite — it will set us back. 

Republicans who want to undo health reform lost the debate in Congress, the Supreme Court and last year's elections.  Their bitter message of repeal, delay, and division is a non-starter.  I am open to working with anyone, regardless of party affiliation, to strengthen and improve the health care law, but it has to be in the right context, not as a threat over the functioning of the government or the nation's credit-worthiness.

A government shutdown is wasteful, irresponsible, and helps no one.  

I urge Speaker Boehner to allow a vote on a clean CR that keeps the government working for the American people.  

Given the opportunity, I believe responsible and reasonable members of both chambers will do the right thing and vote to fund the government.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse: I'm disappointed that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans refused to even hold a vote on the responsible bill passed by the Senate to keep the government open. As Rhode Island continues recovering from the recession, we can't afford to play these games. Unfortunately, because of the extremist demands of Tea Party Republicans – demands that were just the subject of the Presidential election which they lost – the federal government is now set to partially shut down after midnight. I will keep working to end this harmful shutdown as quickly as possible to limit the harm to Rhode Island families. And I hope Tea Party Republicans will drop their unreasonable demands so we can move forward.

Congressman Cicilline: If the federal government shuts down at midnight tonight, my staff will remain available to constituents between 8 AM and 8 PM, even though there is no guarantee they will compensated for this time,” said Cicilline. “A federal government shutdown could mean veterans' benefits are disrupted, small business owners stop receiving SBA loans, and unemployment benefits are no longer processed – that's why I am directing my district office to remain accessible to help constituents with requests for assistance until 8 PM while a government shutdown remains in effect.

Congressman Jim Langevin: The writing has long been on the wall that the extreme ideological agenda of House Republicans to delay or defund health reform is a dead end. The fight over the Affordable Care Act was settled, both in the Supreme Court and in the 2012 election, and yet this futile discussion continues all the way to a government shutdown.

Starting today, millions of Americans who rely on government services will go without, or will see crucial benefits delayed, including assistance through the WIC program, veterans benefits and housing loans for low- to moderate-income families. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed, and others will report to work knowing that no paychecks will be issued during this shutdown. Nationwide, medical research will be suspended and environmental enforcement will come to a screeching halt. Popular sites in Washington, DC, and National Parks across the country will close, inconveniencing visitors and causing a major loss of tourism revenue. Small business owners will not be able to access new SBA loans, and employers won't be able to use the E-Verify system to screen prospective employees.

Democrats offered a realistic, Senate-passed alternative that represented a true compromise on spending levels while providing an opportunity to keep government running and negotiate a long-term solution. Unfortunately, Republicans refused to accept anything short of a shutdown. Holding the government and our economy hostage to advance a partisan policy dispute is not how democracy works. This is a manufactured crisis and it was completely avoidable. Republicans need to come to the table with a reasonable alternative or it is the American people that will pay the price.