Congress: Stop Playing Chicken with the Economy

2013-09-29T00:00:00Z 2013-09-29T13:40:00Z Congress: Stop Playing Chicken with the EconomyBy U.S. Rep. Ron Barber Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

First, the bad news.

If Congress doesn’t pass a funding resolution by Monday, the federal government will shut down and critical government functions that Arizonans rely on every day will slow, or worse, halt completely.

This will not only harm thousands of hardworking Americans, it will damage our economy.

The American people deserve better; they deserve a Congress that gets things done.

During my time in Congress, I’ve been working to get things done for Southern Arizona — like making sure the EPA’s one-size-fits-all regional haze regulations don’t shut down the Apache Generating Station in Willcox, fighting to keep the A-10 flying over Tucson and protecting seniors from rising medical costs by introducing legislation to repeal a tax increase in the Affordable Care Act.

Unfortunately, due to the complete dysfunction of leadership in Congress, I’ve also already had to vote multiple times to keep our nation from going over the fiscal cliff and to fight against the irresponsible and mindless across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.

And now, for the fourth time during the 15 months I’ve been in Congress, I face another vote to prevent a government shutdown.

That’s why my message to Congress is: Get to work and get the job done.

Last spring, after the House and Senate passed separate budgets, House leaders refused to sit down with the senators and hammer out a bill to meet in the middle. They had all summer to do this, but they never even met.

Now time has run out. Our only chance to avoid a government shutdown is to pass a temporary patch that continues last year’s spending levels. You can’t run a business that way, and you can’t run the United States government that way, either.

If a common-sense solution isn’t passed by Monday at midnight, the Treasury Department stops writing checks.

That means our military personnel and civilian workers at Fort Huachuca and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base may have to work without pay. Only in this Congress would it need to be said over and over: It is wrong to not pay our service members on time.

Arizona National Guardsmen and -women will not be paid.

More than 150,000 people I represent rely on their Social Security checks. In a government shutdown, new Social Security beneficiaries might not get their checks.

Health-care providers serving Medicare patients might not get paid. This could endanger the health of many seniors.

And on top of it all, a government shutdown would actually costs taxpayers billions.

The Office of Management and Budget estimated that the 1996 shutdowns, which lasted a combined 26 days, cost the government $1.4 billion.

This is irresponsible.

Since I was sworn in, I have kept an open mind to new ideas, even when they come from people who I don’t always agree with. I work with my Republican colleagues and join them to introduce legislation to support small businesses, seniors and veterans.

The American people have a right to expect that their members of Congress will try to hash out disagreements respectfully and come up with reasonable solutions to our problems.

I am sad to say that from what I’ve seen so far, the Congress is run by people who are more interested in seeing themselves bickering on television shows than getting work done.

Congress even refuses to do what local school boards, county boards of supervisors, town councils, state legislatures and even homeowners associations do every single year: pay the bills and keep the lights on.

And the good news: It shouldn’t be that hard to fix. Congress just needs to stop playing games and get to work.

Congressman Ron Barber represents Arizona’s 2nd District. Contact him through his website at barber.house.gov

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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