This week Congress once again finds itself in a last-minute scramble to keep the government running. Over the past six months, we have been operating on temporary funding bills called Continuing Resolutions (CR). These stop-gap funding measures prevent accurate budgeting for federal priorities, halting new projects in their tracks – whether implementing software to speed up IRS claims or building wastewater treatment facilities. As President Obama has said, it’s no way to run a government, let alone the wealthiest, most powerful one in the world.
Democrats stand ready to negotiate with our Republican colleagues to responsibly put together a budget that will cut waste while protecting programs that support our working families and help to reduce unemployment and invest in future generations. Unfortunately, the word “compromise” has become a dirty word for many on the other side and the result is a looming federal shutdown.
The current CR expires at midnight on April 8. Without a solution in place, nearly half of the federal workforce would be furloughed immediately. Shutting down the federal government would be particularly harmful to Northern Virginia, given our high concentration of federal workers, government contractors, and the retail and service industries that cater to their needs. The 8th District is home to more than 65,000 federal employees, most of whom will stop receiving paychecks. Small businesses, from dry-cleaners to taxis to restaurants, would feel a major impact. For contractors, a shutdown could mean delay or an inability in fulfilling payment obligations on business contracts. Contract deadlines would be pushed back or missed entirely.
In previous shutdowns, federal employees were provided retroactive pay when a budget agreement was reached and the government resumed operations. There’s no guarantee this time around that would occur. In fact, I would wager that employees that get furloughed will be exempted from any retroactive pay initiatives given Republican motivation to slash the federal workforce.
Having served in Congress during the shutdowns of the 1990’s, I saw firsthand the detrimental effect on the country, and in particular Northern Virginia. Shutting down the federal government is avoidable. It’s an abdication of our duty to allow it to happen. But as Democrats we can’t negotiate with ourselves. It will be up to the Republicans to join our efforts to reach a compromise that will keep the lights on. The clock is ticking…
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.