As we speak, 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 a thing of the past.
In San Diego County, more than 30,000 federal workers are being kept from 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 cancelled as a result of the shutdown. Cabrillo National Monument, and national parks across the state and country, has been shuttered. The American people have had enough.
When the current shutdown is combined with the harmful, across-the-board sequester cuts our region is hit doubly hard. 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.
Since the shutdown began, the House has passed numerous small-scale measures to open up pieces and parts of the federal government, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and National Parks. I’ve supported these because they’ve been the only opportunity to ease some of the hardship that this shutdown is causing. But the measures haven’t advanced, and the Senate and the President have made it clear that they will only accept a clean continuing resolution that opens up the entire federal government, not just an agency here and there.
We must also recognize that this shutdown is a result of Congressional failure to work in a collaborative, bipartisan fashion that San Diegans are used to. 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.
Further, this shutdown is keeping Congress from working on other critical issues facing our nation including immigration reform, tax reform, and ensuring American competitiveness in an increasingly global economy. In just a matter of weeks our nation hits the debt ceiling, which could wreak havoc on our economic recovery. As a country we must pay the bills for spending we have already racked up and then have a discussion for making targeted cuts to government waste and inefficiency. The debt ceiling is not something we can mess around with, and as far as I know, I’m the only member with a plan to keep it from paralyzing Congress in the future.
This is certainly a tempestuous time in Congress, but what many members 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. Hundreds of thousands of furloughed Americans want to do their jobs; it’s time Congress did theirs.
Scott Peters represents the 52nd District of California in the United States House of Representatives.