I wanted to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on the recent events in Washington, DC. On October 1, the federal government shut down many operations – and furloughed hundreds of thousands of its employees –after the President and Senate Democrats refused to negotiate any of the funding bills the House sent over to them in the past three weeks.
It was an extraordinarily difficult thing to see happen. Nearly 800,000 federal employees don’t know when they’ll receive their next pay check. They want certainty, decisiveness, and confidence that their elected leaders can protect them. That’s why Republicans are working every day to get this government open again and get the people of Eastern Washington and America back to work. And it’s frustrating and unfortunate that the President and Senate Democrats are standing in the way of letting that happen.
But we won’t let that stop us from acting. We’re working every day to get this government open again by putting forward legislation that will allow federal agencies to resume its operations as soon as possible. Military and national intelligence operations are continuing – and Medicare and Social Security will keep going – right through the shutdown.
But national parks, monuments, the National Institutes of Health, the Veterans Administration, NASA and other agencies have sent home hundreds of thousands of workers. In Spokane, Fairchild Air Force Base has furloughed some civilian personnel, and other federal research facilities are closed. Three-thousand miles away, in the “other” Washington, we’ve had to furlough most of our staff and until the government re-opens, we cannot help constituents with VA, immigration or other issues.
I have voluntarily chosen to withhold my salary during the shutdown, and it goes without saying that I’ve suspended all political fundraising events.
But this is about much more than a debate over a funding bill. It’s a fundamental difference about how to govern, about what kind of future we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. Let me explain how we’ve reached this point. For three years, since Obamacare passed on a strictly partisan vote – pushed through with every parliamentary tactic in the book – the Administration and Senate have refused to listen to the American people. Sadly, the only time we have made any progress is when faced with one “fiscal crisis” or another, each one brought on by the federal government’s unprecedented growth in spending. Even today, the federal government is spending over $600 billion more a year than we bring in – and that number would be twice as high if the House had not forced spending reforms the last time we came up against the debt ceiling.
For the first time since the Korean War, total federal spending has gone down for two years in a row. The Budget Control Act (BCA), which the Republicans passed, was the largest spending reduction bill of the last 25 years – amounting to $630 billion in savings over five years. It was the largest deficit control bill since 1981 not to contain a penny in tax increases. Our legislation successfully protected 99 percent of Americans from a tax increase on a permanent basis, and ensured that almost all of the 2001 and 2003 tax rates were made permanent, including the death tax and lower rates on capital gains and dividends.
We have ideas to revive our economy – from the Keystone Pipeline Project and energy expansion, to tax reform that would spur a new generation of American manufacturing jobs, and health care reforms that would reduce consumer costs and bring competition back into the marketplace. But the Senate believes their slim majority gives them the right to ignore everything coming from this side of the Capitol. And Americans are paying the price because of it.
With just two weeks to go until the Treasury runs out of money, with federal agencies closed and national parks padlocked, our message to the President and Democratic-controlled Senate could not be clearer: come to the negotiating table. Listen to the American people. We don’t expect to get 100 percent of what we want, but we represent one half of the legislative branch and we insist on being heard. In times of divided government, both bodies of Congress and both parties have come to the table and worked out their differences. This time should be no different. Congress works best with negotiations and compromises, not shutdowns and crises.
As the Bible so wisely instructs: “Come let us reason together.” We ask the President and Senate to do just that. It all starts with a dialogue. We’ll keep working hard to get the government running again – to get us through the next year and put us on a sustainable financial path forward for many years to come.