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Friday, September 29, 2023

Ohio Congress members want to avoid government shutdown but aren’t sure that’s possible

WASHINGTON, D. C. – As a top Republican on the House of Representatives committee that funds the federal government, U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce says he’s been working “feverishly” on a compromise that will keep the federal government open when funding expires on Oct 1.

Joyce has worked closely with House of Representatives leaders to devise a monthlong stopgap that would keep the government open long enough for Congress to complete work on bills that will fund the government through the rest of the year. In-fighting between Republican Party factions with divergent spending priorities has made it hard to reach a compromise that can get the 218 votes needed for passage.

If Congress doesn’t agree on a measure to fund the federal government, many of its functions will shut down after funding expires. Government workers at facilities like NASA Glenn Research Center won’t be able to work. Workers deemed necessary for national security, like air traffic controllers and members of the military, stay on the job but don’t get paid. Processing of passports and new applications for Social Security will be delayed.

According to the American Federation of Government Employees union, during the last partial government shutdown, 800,000 federal employees went five weeks without a paycheck, with half forced to work without pay and another half locked out of their jobs. The U.S. economy also took an $11 billion hit.

“These costly outcomes are completely avoidable,” said a statement from AFGE national president Everett Kelley. “Congress needs to do its job and pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at current levels while continuing to negotiate a final budget. Nothing less is acceptable.”

Read more: What closes in a government shutdown?

Joyce says some Republicans don’t want to support the temporary funding bill because it would provide $300 million for the war in Ukraine. Others want it to defund the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department investigations into former President Donald Trump.

Democrats say they won’t back it because it would freeze defense funding and cut almost all other domestic investments by more than 8%. The White House released a statement that said the bill would make “indiscriminate cuts to programs that millions of hardworking Americans count on.”

Joyce said those cuts would last for a month if the bill passes in its current form, and preferred funding levels would likely be reinstated when permanent spending bills are adopted. He also notes that the Senate would have a say in the funding levels.

“The idea is trying to stay together as a team and put together something that we can agree on and show this as our opening salvo in negotiations with the Senate,” says Joyce, who regards shutdowns as “bad for the country.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York on Tuesday said the GOP proposal is a “nonstarter here in the Senate,” and called on Republicans in the House to seek a bipartisan solution.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, said nobody in the Senate wants a shutdown, and neither do House Democrats.

“We need to get the National Defense Authorization Act completed, we need to pass appropriations bills, there’s plenty to do,” said Brown. “All these radicals in the House talk about shutting the government down instead of doing their jobs and they should be ashamed of themselves and they should be held accountable.”

U.S. Sen. JD Vance, a Cincinnati Republican, last week told reporters that most Americans don’t want a government shutdown, but they expect Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to negotiate a compromise.

“That’s important, because oftentimes through this process, Biden has taken a my-way-or-the-highway approach,” Vance told reporters. “That’s not what the American people want. That’s not what the Constitution prescribes.”

In a Monday interview, U.S. Rep. Max Miller, a Rocky River Republican, said he needs to see what’s in the month-long temporary funding bill before deciding whether to support it, but said he’s “doing everything I can on our side to talk to other colleagues on Capitol Hill to avert a government shutdown.”

Miller said that a shutdown would “severely impact” the congressional district he represents, with NASA Glenn being shut down and “military men and women who will not be getting paid.”

U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown, a Warrensville Heights Democrat, says a shutdown would affect needed services like the military, and the Veterans Administration and is “certainly something we want to avoid.”

“This is their fight,” she said of Republicans, declining to predict whether they’d be able to pass a bill.

Toledo Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a top Democrat who serves on the House Appropriations Committee with Joyce, says a shutdown would hurt the economy because government contracting is suspended, as well as all the different grant programs that create enterprise, resulting in economic stagnation.

“By wasting all this time, a small band of malcontents inside the Republican Party is holding up the entire nation,” says Kaptur. “They are incapable of compromise. I think the country is seeing this, but it’s too bad that we have to be at this point, in 2023, in this country.”

U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes, an Akron Democrat, said a shutdown would be “devastating for the people, families and communities” in her district. She accused the House of Representatives’ Republican majority of focusing on “partisan games meant to distract and divide our country,” and called on them to stop.

“These disruptions would interrupt critical government services, hurting small businesses and even forcing our troops to go without pay and benefits,” Sykes said in a speech on the House of Representatives floor. “Thousands of federal workers and contractors who do vital work throughout the country would not be able to do their jobs creating a lose lose scenario where the public misses out on essential government services and a lower quality of life.”

She accused the House of Representatives’ Republican majority of focusing on “partisan games meant to district and divide our country.

“It is time to stop the political games,” Sykes said.

Sabrina Eaton writes about the federal government and politics in Washington, D.C., for cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.

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