Ask an overwhelming majority of Americans if the recent theatrics in Washington pass as governing, and they will rightly respond with a resounding “no.” Only a small, extremist group of Republican members in the House and their sympathizers in the Senate have forgotten the meaning of the word “govern.” American families might find their sideshow comedic if they were mere spectators to the Republicans’ antics—but they are the props of this Republican game.
Republicans have manufactured a crisis that will cost taxpayers even more money while inconveniencing, if not harming, individuals, families and businesses across the country. By repeatedly voting to fund the government only in exchange for a delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act – with the specific knowledge that it will not pass the Senate or President Obama will veto the measure – House Republicans deliberately put our country and its government into shutdown mode. The House GOP’s grandstanding is knowingly risking financial harm to 90,000 federal workers and 180,000 federal contractors, as well as their families and local communities, in Maryland alone. Our state could lose 3 to 7 percent of our state’s daily income, up to $5 million in State revenues lost for each shutdown day, and somewhere between $24 million and $89 million in economic output each day.
All states will feel an impact from the shutdown, but Maryland would be hit even harder than most because our economy is inextricably linked to the federal workforce. If you’re a federal employee and you don’t know when your next paycheck is coming, chances are you’re going to be tightening your purse strings. When that happens hundreds of thousands of times over, the economy is going to feel it.
To certain members of the GOP, these numbers are a small price to pay for media attention. The New York Times described House Republicans as “downright giddy” as they moved our government closer to a shutdown. But to Marylanders, a government shutdown is nothing to celebrate. These numbers mean real financial pain for millions of hardworking employees and their families in our State and all across our Nation.
Some House and Senate Republicans defend their decision to play chicken with millions of jobs by claiming that they are taking a stand against the Affordable Care Act. But by standing against health care reform, they are also standing against the 100 million Americans who are benefitting from the consumer protections and access to secure health coverage that the ACA has brought them. This includes more than 34 million seniors who have received free preventive services, more than three million children who’ve been able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans, and all the people in their own districts who have or will receive affordable health care under the ACA. These Republicans are also standing against all three branches of our government: the Supreme Court, who upheld the Affordable Care Act, the Executive Branch, who signed the law, and their own branch of government that passed the law. Finally, they’re standing against rational members of their own political party, who are warning them not to gamble with our economy and the livelihoods of millions.
Sometimes I wonder why these Tea Party extremists ran for elected office if they refuse to actually govern. When you hold the economy hostage in an act of political showmanship, you’re sending a clear message that you want gridlock rather than government. The only progress these extremists have been interested in was the progress towards a shutdown.
But that’s not the progress that the American people need and deserve. We need to continue strengthening our economy, which has created 7.5 million private-sector jobs over the last 42 months. And we desperately need to come together on a comprehensive budget solution that’s fair to all Americans.
We have enough problems to face without gratuitously creating new ones. We need to overcome the problems that we can control so that together, we can face those problems that are much more vexing. That’s the promise we make to the American people as public servants, and a promise that our Nation is depending on us to fulfill.