NM delegation on gov’t shutdown: It’s the other side’s fault
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By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are divided, and so is the New Mexico delegation on Capitol Hill.
The federal government shut down just after midnight Monday, and it didn’t take long for the Democrats and Republicans to start blaming one another.“I had hoped that a shutdown could be avoided,” Rep. Steve Pearce — the lone Republican in the New Mexico delegation —said in a statement released late Monday night. “I encourage all New Mexicans to contact their senators and urge them to pass the House Continuing Resolution and end the shutdown.”
A few minutes later, Sen. Tom Udall blamed the impasse on “a small minority of extremists in the Republican party (that) is now holding the entire country hostage.”
Then, at 2 a.m. Mountain time, Sen. Martin Heinrich released a brief statement, saying, “Closing down the government strikes at the heart of New Mexico’s economy and our middle-class families. And that was the decision Republicans made tonight.”
For the first time in 17 years Monday, Congress couldn’t agree on a new budget, which has led to some parts of the federal government to shut down.
While many operations, such as the sending out Social Security checks and other federal responsibilities deemed “essential” will continue, thousands of federal employees have been furloughed until an agreement is reached.
In New Mexico, civilian employees at Holloman Air Force Base outside Alamogordo, Cannon AFB outside Clovis, Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque and the White Sands Missile Base have been told not to report to work until further notice.
National parks and monuments in New Mexico — including Carlsbad Caverns National Park — have also been closed.
At the heart of the budget debate is the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect Tuesday.
The House, controlled by Republicans, want to tie government spending to a one-year delay in a requirement that individuals buy health insurance. The House proposal would deny federal subsidies to members of Congress, Capitol Hill staff, executive branch political appointees, White House staff and the president and vice president, who would be forced to buy their health coverage on the ACA’s new insurance exchanges.
But the Senate, controlled by Democrats, say no. They want what’s called a “clean” continuing resolution to pass the budget.
The statements from Pearce and Udall illustrate the differences between the parties.
Pearce said the carve-out for those in Washington under “Obamacare” is unfair. “I have always believed that Congress should be held to the same standards as everyone else,” said Pearce. “We must end the special privileges for the political class in Washington.”
Udall, like many Democrats, say House Republicans are at fault for digging in their heels on the ACA.
It’s “a law that has cleared the Congress and the Supreme Court and survived a presidential election,” Udall said. “Insisting on a government shutdown to prove a point isn’t leadership, it’s a temper tantrum, and the American people are rightly disgusted.”
In 1996, a similar government shutdown materialized between then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton, and the political consensus was that Republicans were to blame.
Republicans have criticized President Obama and Senate Democrats for not negotiating in the hope of repeating that political calculus.
“I talked to the president tonight,” Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on the House floor Monday. Boehner said Obama, in essence, told him, “I’m not going to negotiate. I’m not going to negotiate.”
“You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job,” Obama said in the White House briefing room as midnight approached.
Contact Rob Nikolewski at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama, Ben Ray Lujan, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, government shutdown, John Boehner, Martin Heinrich, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Obamacare, Steve Pearce, Tom Udall