Some people have criticized Members of Congress for “kicking the can down the road” with the recent legislation that ended the partial government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling. Others have criticized the lack of compromise in Washington, D.C. Those are precisely the two reasons I did not vote for this legislation.
Over the past month, I voted for numerous solutions that would have prevented the shutdown and reopened the government. Many of these solutions passed the House with bipartisan support. Instead of negotiating or compromising, President Obama and Senator Reid repeatedly declared their opposition to talks about resolving our differences. In fact, Senator Reid’s abuse of the legislative process was laid bare when he chastised District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray in public and told him not to “screw up” the Democrat Senate leader’s political agenda.
House Republicans made numerous good faith efforts to compromise with President Obama and Senator Reid. We moved from working to repeal the health care law, to defunding it, to just delaying it. The solution that we passed on October 1st would have simply provided individuals and families the same one-year delay that President Obama gave to big businesses.
Delaying the individual mandate is neither partisan nor unreasonable. In fact, a proposal to do this passed the House in July with twenty-two Democrat votes. Picking up any newspaper lays bare the common sense of delaying a program so ill-prepared to function.
In addition, our solution would have stripped the special break the Obama Administration made for Members of Congress.
Under the health care law, Members of Congress must participate in the health insurance exchanges if they wish to obtain insurance in connection with their employment. The Administration decided through the regulatory process to continue providing employer contributions even though the law does not give the government the authority to do so.
Western Pennsylvania individuals and families at comparable income levels enrolling in the exchanges would not qualify for such government subsidies. Consequently, Members of Congress are getting a special deal not available to the American people.
This is wrong. Members of Congress must live by the same rules as the American people.
Furthermore, if the health care law offers such a wonderful deal for the American people, tell me why the President, Congress, and Secretary Sebelius were not first in line to sign up?
The last solution the House proposed on October 15th would have left the individual mandate in place, reopened the government, and increased the debt limit while still removing the special treatment for Members of Congress. This proposal was met with a veto threat from the President and another categorical rejection in the Senate.
Senator Reid’s bill, which the House passed on October 16th, not only did not contain any compromise with respect to protecting special deals, but it raised the debt level again without any reforms to change our disastrous debt trajectory.
We have an obligation to pay our bills, but when we raise the debt limit, we need to take steps to make sure we can pay those bills long into the future.
You don’t sign a contract to buy a car and then expect the bank to give you a loan if you are not going to be able to make the payments. Taking out a new loan without getting spending under control when you are already at your credit limit is not avoiding default, it’s delaying it.
The legislation that passed on October 16th was not the only way to avoid default. Rather, default could have been avoided with a simple thirty day suspension of the debt limit followed immediately by a serious conversation between the President and Congress about how best to address the debt crisis that is robbing our future prosperity.
Of course that conversation could only happen if President Obama and Senator Reid came to the table and were ready to talk, compromise, and negotiate in good faith.
It is time for an end to governing by crisis. My hope is that all elected officials in Washington, D.C. are finally ready to sit down and do the important work of the American people: address the deficit, find a better way on health care reform, and get the economy booming again.