"As Vermont's senator, I intend to do everything I can to reopen the government as soon as possible and keep our country from defaulting, which could drive the global economy into economic turmoil," Sen. Bernie Sanders said on Tuesday. "My fear, however, is that no matter what happens in Congress in the next day or two, serious and long-lasting damage already has been done to our country by the right-wing extremists of the Tea Party."
Sanders statement came as the government shutdown entered its third week on Tuesday and as a Thursday default deadline loomed unless Congress extends the Treasury Department's authority to pay bills.
"What we have already witnessed is the hijacking of the democratic process by a few dozen extremists in the House who are actively trying to annul the results of the last election. This sets a terrible precedent for the legislative process and will likely be repeated year after year," he said.
"What we have already witnessed is the anxiety befalling over 1 million federal employees who are not receiving the paychecks they deserve. Having gone three years without a pay raise, they are now wondering how they will pay their mortgages, their student loans and take care of other basic needs. How many experienced and high-quality federal employees will we be losing as a result of this shutdown? What is the long-term damage to the functioning of the federal government?
"What we have already witnessed is the fear of many of our most vulnerable citizens -- the elderly, the sick, veterans, the disabled, Head Start families -- that the payments and programs they depend upon may not be there when they need them. Their confidence in their own government to keep the promises and commitments made to them will be forever diminished.
"What we have already witnessed is a blow to our position in the international community. In our foreign relations, we should not be surprised that the United States government is now the laughing stock of the world. Can we really be the "strongest country on earth' when we shut down the government and do not pay our bills? The Chinese, our biggest creditor, are now openly talking about the need to "de-Americanize" international affairs because of the constant brinksmanship by U.S. politicians over the possibility of a debt default.
"The American people are better than this. They deserve a better government," he said.