North Carolinians are witnessing a frustrating display of partisan politics from Washington. Many government agencies have temporarily shut down and a number of services have been halted. The President says he won't negotiate. Senate Democrats are refusing even to talk with Republicans from the House of Representatives about a bipartisan solution to get government working again. People are right to be frustrated.
Republicans and Democrats will never agree on everything. Right now, however, our disagreement is quite simple. A majority in the House, some Democrats included, feel strongly that government should be open and that Obamacare must be fair for everyone. Basic fairness entails two things. First, hardworking Americans should get the same penalty-free year to prepare for Obamacare that the President gave to big businesses. Second, Members of Congress should not receive special help to pay for Obamacare that isn't available to others. Those are commonsense ideas Senate Democrats should be willing to discuss as we work to reopen the federal government. But Senate Democrats, like the President, are insisting they "will not negotiate."
This sort of partisanship doesn't have to continue. Since the shutdown began, bipartisan majorities of the House of Representatives have voted to reopen government services and spare North Carolinians from Washington's dysfunction. We voted to open our parks and memorials because their closure is punitive and they should never be disrespected by the theater of barricades. We agree National Institutes of Health clinical trials should continue, so we voted to fund NIH. Similarly, we voted to ensure pay for all veterans and restore FEMA, the FDA, Head Start, and the WIC program, among others.
But most of our proposals to get government functioning again face Senate inaction and White House veto threats. This "our-way-or-the-highway" mindset must stop. The challenges we face as a nation require bipartisan solutions. Both parties need to work together to reopen government and also get America's debt under control.
Our Nation may reach its $16.7 trillion debt limit as early as October 17. In 2006, Senator Barack Obama decried a proposed debt ceiling increase as "a sign of leadership failure," and voted against it. He referred, in 2008, to the $4 trillion debt accrued by his predecessor as "irresponsible" and "unpatriotic." Today he is silent on the $6 trillion in new debt he has added since.
Simply raising our credit limit without reforming future spending would be more than irresponsible. It would be wrong. As a grandmother, I can't in good conscience vote to enable Washington's spending binge while doing nothing to contain the debt we're leaving our grandchildren.
But the President is approaching the debt limit with the same "refuse to negotiate" mantra. That's not leadership. And it defies years of precedent wherein Presidents from both parties worked with Congress to confront spending when addressing the debt ceiling.
The United States should pay its bills, but enough is enough. If we don't also change course and reduce wasteful overspending, the unsustainable sum of our future bills will overwhelm us. The House's passage of the Full Faith and Credit Act, which ensures debt payments, has given Senate Democrats and the President a choice to keep default off the table. They can leave a better financial legacy to our kids and grandkids by working with us to control spending.
North Carolinians keep telling me "this has to stop." I agree. To have any hope of solving the challenges before us, leaders have to be willing to work together. So let's restore services we agree should be running and fix inequities in the law. Let's defend our credit rating by getting control over our bills and strengthening our fiscal foundation. Whether the challenge is ending the shutdown or confronting our debt, divided government demands bipartisan solutions, and finding bipartisan agreement starts by sitting down to talk.