THE BLOG

Ending the Federal Government Shutdown and Avoiding Default... for Now

Oct 17, 2013 | Updated Dec 17, 2013

Two weeks into the government shutdown and on the brink of default, we all became acutely aware of what happens when politicians choose to advance partisanship over public policy and service to the American people. The government shutdown was a self-imposed crisis manufactured by a small group of hard-line conservatives in the House of Representatives because of their opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

We heard heartbreaking stories of the impacts of the government shutdown to the public and the U.S. economy. And as we know from past shutdowns, the damage and disruption they cause to our families, our businesses, our government, and our standing in the world will linger far longer than the number of days this crisis lasted.

In West Virginia, the Mine Safety and Health Administration personnel were not able to conduct regular reviews of mine safety. Sadly, four miners died during the shutdown. While I can't say that these accidents would not have happened if the government's doors had been open over the past three weeks, I do believe that we owe it to the hardworking men and women who work in our nation's mines to make sure that as long as they are on the clock, the government's safety experts are as well.

The shutdown caused problems above ground, too. Experts from the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board could not monitor our highways, railroads and pipeline networks or study how to make them safer. Scientists and technical experts at NASA, the National Science Foundation, and Department of Defense weren't performing basic research and engineering that private aerospace and technology companies needed for commercial success.

Consumer Product Safety Commission officials could not monitor our ports and stop hazardous products from entering our stores. With the holiday season approaching, I've been particularly concerned about keeping dangerous imported products off of store shelves and out of the hands of children.

I have been in the Senate long enough to understand that people have differences of opinion, and differing ideas when it comes to how laws should impact the American people. Although in the past, elected leaders in Congress took seriously their obligation to govern. We did our best to rise above the fray by talking to each other and compromising. We found a way to put ideology aside for the good of our constituents and the nation.

The fights we keep having over paying our bills and funding vital government services are a distraction from the important work we have to do. When we fail to govern, it's clear who suffers: the American people. In fact, today a leading credit rating agency estimated that the U.S. economy already lost $24 billion because of the shutdown. This is money that could have boosted our businesses and communities, but it was lost at the hands of petty partisanship.

The deal announced today is not perfect but it's a step forward. It will get MSHA personnel back on the job so our miners' safety is no longer at risk. It will provide security for our veterans who need and deserve access to VA services. It will get our intelligence analysts back to work so they can resume their critically important work that prevents terrorist attacks and thwarts attempts to breach our national security. It will begin to repair the loss of confidence in our economy.
In a matter of months, we will again have to address questions related to funding the government and the debt limit. House Republicans need to be prepared to act differently because this reckless behavior is unsustainable and it's no way to seriously run a government. Politics has a place in our system and that's fine. But when it becomes so paralyzing that it causes our government to shut down, and puts our nation's reputation in jeopardy, politics has gone too far. We have to find a way to get on common ground. This is the only way we're going to do big things again.

We need to get serious about restoring the American people's trust in their elected officials and the world's trust in our ability to be a strong and reliable economic partner. I want people to have confidence in their government and confidence in their future. I want them to believe the government can make a difference in their lives. Let's learn from this moment, so that when we're asked to make tough decisions again soon, we're focused only on doing good for the people of this great country.