ABC7: Members of Congress, public wait for permanent solution after government shutdown averted

ABC7, CHRISTIAN FLORES

Even though Congress was able to avert a government shutdown by approving a resolution to extend funding for 45 days, lawmakers and those who would have been impacted by furloughs are only able to breathe a momentary sigh of relief.

On Saturday, the House and Senate approved a resolution that funds the federal government for another 45 days. President Biden signed the bill with little time to spare before midnight. Had they not passed the bill, the government would have been shut down starting midnight Sunday.

This would have meant hundreds of thousands of federal government workers in the D.C. area would have been out of work until a deal was done, and they would not have had any idea when their next paycheck would come.

Every member of Congress who represents districts in the D.C. area voted for the resolution.

Congressman Glenn Ivey, D-Md., represents Prince George’s County, and told 7News the effect a shutdown would have had on his constituents would have been catastrophic.

“It would have been a devastating impact,” Ivey said. “You have a lot of people who, even if they would be required to keep working if they’re essential, still wouldn’t necessarily get paid. You would have contractors who would be disrupted and not get paid, as well. There would be a national impact. You would have troops not getting paid but are still required to work, Border Patrol and security still required to work. It’s a huge impact. TSA and the airports could be damaged. And [you have] the economic impact. It could push us into a recession pretty easily if it goes for any length of time. I think it’s important we get it done for all of those reasons. Also, I think it’s important for us to make sure it’s clear to Wall Street and the world that we’re capable of managing our economy, we’re not a dysfunctional government. So, we should have the continued high bond ratings we’ve had recently. If your bond rating goes down, it costs more for the United States. That’s the thing about a government shutdown: it ends up costing us more than if we just have the government continue to run.”

The extended funding of the federal government was in jeopardy over Republican in-fighting, with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., facing opposition from the far-right factions of the party not wanting to compromise with Democrats on the spending bill.

Ivey said this ultimately made it more difficult to pass the resolution, despite bipartisan agreement back in May.

“You still had 91 House Republicans vote against this. It gives you a sense of how many of them there are who aren’t just satisfied with rocking the boat. They want to tip it over,” Ivey said. “I thought it was critical for us to keep the government open. We spent weeks – really months, actually – with the House Republicans. They tried to do everything they could to use the government as leverage up until the 11th hour, which was today. They were trying to push through draconian cuts. We were looking at things like 1 million seniors losing access to Meals on Wheels, 150,000 teachers losing their positions across the country, loss of access to reproductive services, and other cuts along those lines. Everybody was lined up to get this done for several weeks now, except for the House Republicans. We were pleased they finally gave up the extreme demands they had been making.”

The resolution expires in 45 days, meaning Congress – and the American people – could be forced to hold their breath over discussions to again extend federal government funding.

7News asked Ivey if it was likely the public, and especially people living in the D.C. area, could again face a shutdown scare.

“It’s hard to say, frankly,” Ivey said. “House Democrats stayed strong and got this deal done. We put the votes in place to get it across the finish line. We had 91 House Republicans who voted against this deal. Whether they stay with the deal they agreed to this time as opposed to last time, I think we’ll have to wait and see.”

Before Saturday’s vote, D.C. area residents were in a panic over whether they would see a paycheck soon or not.

Businesses along Capitol Hill were also preparing for a potential hit to their bottom line.

Christopher Haley, the general manager of Union Pub, said the bar had prepared discounts for federal government workers to get through their furloughs.

“This week has been a lot of prepping for the potential of them not getting stuff together, and hoping it all works out well for their staff and ours. It’s a lot of coming up with ideas for things to help our clientele, which tends to be a lot of staffers, come in and have a break from not being paid and having a place to go where they can still enjoy their time off,” Haley said. “On the short term, it gives people a break from their daily grind. But very quickly, it turns to, ‘Where’s my source of money coming from? What am I doing for my next paycheck? How am I paying my bills?’ That’s why, for us, the specials we did were a little bit of a price reduction for that.”

Even though this could have temporarily boosted business, empty halls of Congress would have also likely meant empty seats in Union Pub and other businesses.

“It turns around very quickly. It might be a week of ‘vacation,’ but after that, it really buckles down and starts to affect everyone and everything around,” Haley said. “You can’t safely and securely enjoy your time when you don’t know when your next paycheck is coming, and we rely largely on people being able to pay their bills.”

Haley also told 7News that some of his own staff would have been more directly impacted by a shutdown other than a loss in tips.

“Some of our staff works on the Hill and has jobs within the government. I’ve heard them say, ‘Hey, if I’m furloughed, this might be a situation where I need to pick up some shifts here or there,'” Haley said. “We try to find more slots for people, try to make sure everyone can get some work, maybe get some extra cash on the side.”

Staff and customers at Union Pub were left scoreboard-watching the college football and political football games throughout the afternoon Saturday.

Despite a vote to avoid a shutdown, Haley said the bar is prepared in case a shutdown scare comes again when the current deal expires in a month-and-a-half.

“Luckily, for us at least, the prep work is done. All we do is delay and hope they can get everything figured out and find it in themselves to come to an agreement to keep the country running,” Haley said.

In the meantime, members of Congress who represent the D.C. area have already promised to avoid another close call come November when the current deal is up.

“The last-minute gamesmanship, I think we need to make sure to push to the side, stay strong, and work with the Republicans but make sure we stay true to our principles,” Ivey said. “I think House Democrats remain united. We had some conditions we laid out pushing for a clean continuing resolution. By clean, I mean none of the ideological nonsense [House Republicans] tried to shoehorn into this legislation, sticking roughly to the agreement that was reached with the debt ceiling issue, and trying to make sure we do other things to assist the American people.”

7News reached out to all of the other members of Congress who represent the D.C. area.

Nobody else was available, and deferred to statements.

“We should never have come this close to a government shutdown. For days, thousands of Virginians I represent feared a situation where they would be forced to work without pay, become furloughed, or struggle to make ends meet. And for months, Virginia’s businesses were sounding the alarm about the devastating effects of shutdowns on Virginia’s economy,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., in a statement. “Going forward, Congress has a long to-do list — including passing the 2023 Farm Bill, supporting our allies in Ukraine, and once again avoiding a government shutdown. We need to work in a bipartisan way to get these priorities across the finish line, and as the Representative of thousands of federal employees, servicemembers, and contractors, we need to take steps to avoid these Groundhog Day funding crises in the future.”

“I am relieved that Speaker McCarthy folded and finally allowed a bipartisan vote at the eleventh hour on legislation to stop Republicans’ rush to a disastrous shutdown. Had he taken this step sooner it would have spared millions of Americans, including many of my constituents, a great deal of unnecessary fear and uncertainty,” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., in a statement.

“Had the House Majority acted faster, we could have avoided the angst and vitriol of the past few weeks and preserved greater

confidence in our democracy. The Republican Party’s longstanding policy of using government shutdowns as a cudgel to advance extreme policies is dangerous and costly. I am relieved that the House advanced a bipartisan solution that, with Senate passage, would spare the American people from having to deal with the severe consequences of that tactic,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a statement.

“Today, House Democrats voted to avert a government shutdown and protect American families. For the millions of Americans – including over two million active troops and reservists – who were bracing for furloughs or work without on-time pay, this is news to celebrate,” said Rep. David Trone, D-Md., in a statement. “Democrats held the line to ensure extreme Republican policy riders

and devastating funding cuts were not included in the stopgap funding bill.”

“I’m glad that Democrats stopped extreme MAGA Republicans from shutting down the government by passing a continuing resolution—at least temporarily preserving federal worker security and saving aid to WIC, Head Start, SNAP and other essential government services Americans depend on,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., in a statement. “I will continue doing everything in my power to ensure we avert a shutdown again and fund the federal government through the fiscal year. I’m fighting for federal government employees, including the more than 56,000 who call Maryland’s Eighth District home, and for the integrity of the United States Congress.”

Of the members of Congress who represent the D.C. area, Reps. Jennifer Wexton and Gerry Connolly of Virginia did not provide statements. 7News reached out to them to ask the following questions:

  1. What are the economic implications of avoiding a shutdown?
  2. With so many people in your district working jobs that could be affected by a shutdown, how important is it to avoid a shutdown?
  3. With this being only for 45 days, what are the next steps?
  4. How likely is it we will have another shutdown scare after this deal expires if the Senate passes it?

As of the time of publication, they have not answered these questions.

Each member of Congress who represents the D.C. area and shared a statement also mentioned they would like to see aid for Ukraine approved.

Ukrainian aid was a sticking point between the House and Senate, with the original Senate proposal including the funding for the country under siege by Russia.

7News asked Ivey if he would support including aid for Ukraine in the next resolution.

“I’d like to see something beforehand for Ukraine. I don’t think we want to have them wait 45 days, uncertain about whether they will get additional funding. I think it’s important for us to get the deal done, not just from a dollars-and-cents standpoint and providing the resources they need to defend themselves against Russia, but also as a message to NATO that we’re still standing strong with them, to

the Ukrainian people that we’ve got their backs, and also to Russia that they can’t just wait us out,” Ivey said. “I think we can deal with Ukraine in the next few weeks and make sure we don’t send the wrong message to Russia, make sure we send the right message to Ukraine, and make sure we keep giving them supplies they need to win.”

The resolution expires November 17.

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