Why the Mess in Washington Happened

Last week, the House and Senate voted to end the government shutdown. I am pleased that the furloughs are over and the government is back to work. It should never have gotten to that point. Both parties are to blame for the mess we got ourselves into.

While I was fully in favor of restarting the government, the final legislation to accomplish that had a multitude of problems:

     1. It protects special treatment for Washington, meaning that Congress, the White House, and their staffers will receive massive taxpayer subsidies to cover most of their new healthcare costs.  

     2. It is only temporary; in three months we have the danger of the same turmoil again.

     3. It has no dollar limit on the President’s power to borrow; he borrowed $328 billion the first day.

     4. It had no reforms to address the overspending which kills jobs and threatens the country’s economic future. 

People ask what the entire discussion was about. It was a full-fledged struggle of ideas.  On one side was the idea that we can continue borrowing and printing money; on the other is the idea that we must stop raising taxes, printing money, and spending more than we have. 

Compromise is possible. This year, the Republican House and the Democratic Senate managed to agree on many bills—including one that reforms student loan programs, and seven different bills that repealed or defunded parts of Obama care.  The President signed all of these reforms into law. 

The House passed a series of appropriations bills with responsible reforms to move the country toward a balanced budget.  But the Senate refused to act, and it was necessary to fund the government with a “continuing resolution,” or “CR.”

The President called for us to pass a “clean CR,” which is Washington talk for no more reforms…and no more attempts to get the deficit under control.  Our country is over 17 trillion dollars in debt.  We are printing, borrowing, and taxing as much as we possibly can.

The disagreement over the CR spread next into the debt limit. That is like when you max out your credit card. You can’t buy more on your card until you pay it off. If Washington reaches the debt ceiling, we would have to do the same thing every American family does when they get in a crunch.  We would prioritize expenses, start paying off debt and live within our means. 

Our system is set up where the House, the Senate and the White House—Democrats, Republicans and Independents—all have to arrive at common ground.

There are differences of opinion.  Each side gives a little to find common ground. That’s what we did two years ago when we approached this same point. Republicans agreed to give the president what he wanted in exchange for spending cuts.  It is the way the system is supposed to work.

But not this time. We sent the Senate four different attempts to negotiate before the government shut down. Each one a bigger compromise than the last.  The Senate ignored them all, refusing to accept anything less than going forward ignoring all the problems.  I voted for more than a dozen bills to fund at least the functions of the government we could all agree on, like veterans’ benefits and New Mexico’s labs. I had hoped they would have been taken in the spirit of compromise, but they were unsuccessful. 

So now we have given the President his “clean CR”. The government is running, but the major economic challenges remain.

I am disappointed and frustrated with the mess in Washington over the last few weeks. I know you are too. I still believe there is room for optimism.  Just this week, both parties worked together to pass important legislation with strong bipartisan support.  Democrats got things important to them, while Republicans found ways to save $12 billion.  That’s the way it’s supposed to work.  With both sides agreeing, it seems that there is hope for future cooperation.  And I am already working across the aisle on key issues for New Mexico and the nation, including immigration reform, job creation, energy, and veterans' affairs.