Affordable Care Act a sticking point in government shutdown; debt crisis looms

by T.W. Budig

ECM Capitol Reporter

 

Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar looks to Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s reported commitment not to let the country default as a glimmer of promise.

“Hopefully, this will be a good sign,” Klobuchar said, speaking Friday, Oct. 4, the fourth day of the partial federal government shutdown.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken did not expect the standoff in Washington to go so far.

“I really didn’t think it would happen this time,” Franken said on Friday of the shutdown. It’s incredibly frustrating, Franken said.

The last federal government shutdown happened 18 years ago during the Clinton Administration and lasted 21 days. Franken and Klobuchar expressed concern that events in Washington are damaging the United States’ image abroad. “That a major concern,” Klobuchar said.

What’s really troubling, Franken explained, is that the lurching from crisis to crisis is becoming a pattern. Both Senate Democrats blame House Republicans for the current impasse. Klobuchar points to a small faction of House Republican hard-liners — she threw Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz into the hard-line list — as causing the shutdown. It’s no secret, Franken said, that there’s an argument going on within the Republican Party.

It’s time for Republicans to stand up to the hard-liners, Klobuchar said. Many Senate Republicans did not want a shutdown, she explained.

As for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which the Republican House has repeatedly voted to defund, Congress can continue to refine it, Klobuchar explained. She expressed optimism that the medical device tax, for instance, contained within the law can be repealed. The government shutdown is bleeding into the looming debt ceiling crisis.

Congress and Democratic President Barack Obama have until Oct. 17 to reach agreement on raising the $16.7 trillion national debt ceiling, or the federal government will default on paying bills. Boehner in recent days insisted there are not the votes in the Republican House to pass a “clean” debt limit. Republicans have been insisting that Obama actively negotiate with them on Obamacare and the debt limit.

Republican 6th District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in a recent statement echoed the theme. “We’ve seen President Obama unilaterally grant Obamacare waivers to his allies and a one-year exemption to big businesses,” she said in part. “It is only fair that the American people also receive the same one-year delay from the harmful impact of the Obamacare train wreck,” Bachmann said.

It’s time for Obama and Democratic U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to come to the negotiation table and put an end to the shutdown, she said.

Republican 3rd District Congressman Erik Paulsen issued a statement after recently voting on a continuing budget resolution that included provisions delaying the implementation of Obamacare and a repeal of the medical devices tax. “I continue to vote for bipartisan legislation to ensure the government stays open,” Paulsen said. “Minnesotans expect their government to work, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to avert a shutdown,” he said.

Most of the Minnesota Congressional delegation are forgoing or otherwise donating their federal salaries to charity during the shutdown. Members of Congress make $174,000 a year.

Democratic 4th District Congresswoman Betty McCollum is one of the delegation forgoing her salary. “I will not take my salary until Congress opens the government and puts federal employees back to work,” she said.

Democratic 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan recently introduced legislation requiring that members of Congress be paid no salaries during government shutdowns.  “It’s time for Congress to start living in the real world – where you either do your job or you don’t get paid,” Nolan said in a statement.

 

Tim Budig can be reached at tim.budig@ecm-inc.com.

 
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