By Rep. Scott Peters
As this is being written, the federal government is shut down for the first time since 1995. It doesn’t have to be this way and Congress could end it tomorrow. Furloughed workers could go back to work, parks would reopen, and new veterans’ benefits claims would be processed. If the House were allowed to vote on the Senate-approved “clean” continuing resolution, it would pass with bipartisan support and this irresponsible shutdown would be over.
In San Diego County, more than 30,000 federal workers are being prevented from doing their jobs, many in positions that support our military and help protect the country. The Miramar Air Show, a beloved annual event that can be heard and seen across area skies, was canceled. Cabrillo National Monument, and national parks across the state and country, has been shuttered. All this comes on top of the harmful, across-the-board sequester cuts our region has already suffered. Scientific research budgets have been slashed and Impact Aid to school districts near military bases has been severely reduced, resulting in larger class sizes for the children of our service members. These are exactly the places where we should be making long-term investments, not cuts. And I know from my emails and telephone calls that behind the statistics are personal stories of frustration, fear, and pain.
Instead of approving the Senate’s basic funding package, the House of Representatives tried to add conditions to reopening the government. I have voted for some of these myself, including a repeal of the medical device tax. I also supported the limited reopening of pieces and parts of the federal government, like services at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the national parks and cancer research. But none of these have gotten anywhere — they won’t be taken up by the Senate or signed by the president. So, lesson learned, it’s time to move on, vote for the Senate resolution, and reopen the government.
Now there are calls for negotiation, which is a great idea. The shutdown itself is a result of longtime congressional failure to work in a collaborative, bipartisan fashion that San Diegans are used to seeing in our daily lives. If House Republican leadership had worked with the Senate to negotiate a budget several months ago we could have avoided this result, which is punishing families for Congress’ inability to do its job — that’s not fair to workers in San Diego who are trying to provide for their families and do the right thing.
So let’s end this self-inflicted gridlock, open the government, and get to work on the big issues facing our country, including immigration reform, tax reform, and ensuring American competitiveness in an increasingly global economy. And let’s not go anywhere near a default on American credit or any suggestion we should not pay our bills. Economists, the Treasury Department, and Wall Street have all warned that a failure to raise the debt ceiling would send us back into recession, raise the cost of our borrowing, and end the world’s confidence in the United States as an economic leader. I have proposed an alternative to this next game of chicken, which would not only avoid catastrophe but also force the real discussion and solutions on the debt problem politicians love to yell about but hate to act on.
This is certainly a difficult time in Congress, but what members must not forget is that their failure to act has real consequences for real people in every district across the country. In San Diego we know the pain that this shutdown, in combination with the sequester, is having on our economy and our families. It is time to end the shutdown by passing a clean continuing resolution, and then work out good-faith and honest solutions to our national challenges. Hundreds of thousands of furloughed Americans want to do their jobs; it’s time Congress did theirs.
Peters represents the 52nd District of California in the United States House of Representatives. The district includes most of inland North County.