September 22, 2023

Why the Republican Chaos Caucus and Its Government Shutdown Should Make You Mad

One of the most basic duties of Congress is to fund the government and keep it open, serving the American people. That's why the House is dubbed as having the "power of the purse." Unfortunately, this most basic responsibility seems to be too much for Speaker Kevin McCarthy to manage. His unwillingness to negotiate in good faith with Democrats, as he promised to do earlier this year, is pushing our country toward a government shutdown.

That's unacceptable. The American people look to Congress to lead by example and to solve problems, not create them. At the bare minimum, they expect us to keep the government open. And now, instead of having Members of Congress stay here in Washington over the weekend working to find a solution, House Republicans sent everyone home again, pushing us even closer to an expensive and harmful shutdown.

Amid all of this Republican chaos, it's easy to forget that we already agreed to a bipartisan solution to this crisis. The government does not have to shut down. Democrats and Republicans hammered out and agreed to spending levels for the next fiscal year back in May during the debt ceiling negotiations.

That's what makes the Republican majority's unwillingness to work with Democrats now so infuriating. The only reason we are on track for a shutdown is because Kevin McCarthy is going back on his word—and the American people deserve to know that.

Government funding packages are traditionally bipartisan because they have to be. In a closely divided government, cooperation is key, and both parties must be willing to work together to get things done, even when it means neither side gets everything they want. Bipartisan cooperation and compromise are the core of a functioning democratic government.

We can and must do better. As Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of nearly 100 moderate House Democrats dedicated to breaking through partisan gridlock, I am working to reach a bipartisan compromise that avoids a government shutdown.

Let me be clear: The stakes couldn't be higher.

The five-week government shutdown in 2019 cost our economy about $3 billion in lost economic activity that won't be recovered, and the 2013 shutdown cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion. As our economy continues to recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot risk losing our hard-earned progress.

In my home state of New Hampshire, like those across the country, a government shutdown would have serious consequences. Our state is home to almost 5,000 civilian federal employees who would go without pay until this crisis is resolved, and more than 430 air traffic controllers and 750 active duty military members would be asked to work without being paid. That's thousands of families missing a paycheck because of Republican chaos.

The ripple effects don't stop there. New Hampshire is home to more than 73,000 people who receive nutrition assistance benefits who would be at risk of losing access to the healthy food and baby formula they need. Children and families should not go hungry because the Republican majority can't govern.

These consequences of Republican extremism are real, and they are unacceptable. Speaker McCarthy could end this crisis today by keeping his promise to the American people and advancing bipartisan legislation that reasonable Democrats and Republicans would support.

My New Democrat Coalition colleagues and I wrote a letter to Speaker McCarthy urging him to stop catering to the extremes of his party, end this Republican civil war, and finally join responsible lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to do what's right for the American people. New Dems are already having conversations with moderate Republicans about what a bipartisan funding deal would look like and how we can work together to prevent a government shutdown.

But we can only move forward when Speaker McCarthy reckons with the reality that in order to keep the government open, Congress must advance a bipartisan deal. If this doesn't happen by September 30th, the government will shut down, hurting our economy, neglecting our troops, abandoning hungry families, and threatening our national security.

My focus is to work with Republicans and Democrats to get back to the original deal, fully fund the government, prevent a shutdown, and deliver for our constituents. This fight is far from over, and I will continue pushing every day to bring reasonable Republicans to the negotiating table and get this done.

The American people are tired of the Republican Chaos Caucus. They deserve to have faith that their government can function well enough to keep itself open.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) is the Chair of the New Democratic Coalition, a group of nearly 100 moderate Democratic House Members focused on bridging the partisan divide to deliver for the American people.

By:  New Democrat Coalition Chair Annie Kuster (NH-02)
Source: Newsweek