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Hostage-taking must stop

Congressman Charles B. Rangel | 10/10/2013, 5:07 p.m.
Charles Rangel

Over the last three weeks, the House Republican leadership, handcuffed by the extremists in their party, have continued to cling to and defend their radical agenda to shut down the government over their resistance to President Barack Obama’s health care law. Despite strong opposition from the American public, the House GOP has consistently refused to fund the government for the new fiscal year unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded, delayed or dismantled.

As if shutting down our government is not reckless enough, they are now gambling with the full faith and credit of the United States of America. We cannot let one faction of one party in one house of one branch of government hold the entire country hostage. This is immoral and irresponsible, and America demands a clean continuing resolution bill that would reopen the government immediately and another bill to avoid defaulting on our debts.

So far, the Republicans have insisted on political gimmicks by throwing piecemeal funding bills that only serve to cover up their own obstructive policies. They accuse Democrats of not wanting to open the programs that they shut down in the first place, such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps) for women and children; federal medical research; and our national parks. After spending the last two years trying to destroy them, they now realize how important those programs are to their own constituents and are scrambling to cover their tracks. The mini-versions of appropriations bills, however, are insufficient to provide adequate funding for our veterans and children. House Republicans caused this shutdown, and now they’re trying to cherry-pick their way out of it. This is not a responsible way to run a government. The fact of the matter is that only a clean continuing resolution is going to end the government shutdown and reopen vital services that Republicans shut down.

Every day that passes is one in which Republicans deny veterans access to benefits, prevent cancer research for children and prey upon every vulnerable group that depends on the government to help them to use them as a political talking point. The Senate will never pass any piecemeal bill, and the president would veto one that hits his desk. By playing these games, House Republicans are doing nothing but wasting the time of the American people. We could reopen the government today, this minute, if Speaker John Boehner would simply let us vote. All of my Democratic colleagues are ready to vote on a continuing resolution right now. At last count, up to 24 Republicans had already publicly stated that they would vote in favor of the clean continuing resolution bill. The speaker says that Democrats won’t negotiate, but we’ve been sitting at the negotiating table trying to reason with the House Republicans for years. For every inch that we give, they demand a mile, and now that they can’t have everything they want, they drove the entire nation over a cliff.

What is worse is that the full faith and credit of our country is now being threatened again. Republicans, who profess to be so concerned with business and jobs, are throwing America headfirst into a default that would be disastrous for our recovering economy. We’re talking about retirees losing up to 20 percent of their savings. The cost of borrowing will increase, disrupting credit and the savings of everyone—rich or poor. Retirement savings accounts could lose up to $2.4 trillion nationwide, and the damage done to our economy would be devastating. Where is the Republican commitment to creating jobs, responsibly paying our debts, and building a stronger economy for everybody? Why have they instead pushed us on a course where 800,000 people are out of work, the Full Faith and Credit clause is in jeopardy and an economic disaster is right over our shoulders?