October 11, 2013

Cape Cod Times Op-Ed: Shutdown is Bad for Massachusetts

The federal government has been shut down for more than a week now, and we've been seeing the consequences here in Massachusetts. This shutdown is an unnecessary, self-inflicted wound that's hurting families, and it comes while we are still dealing with the effects of the senseless sequester - drastic, across-the-board spending cuts that have crippled Meals On Wheels, Head Start and investments in medical research.

The government shutdown is throwing a major wrench into a fragile economic recovery. Nearly a million federal employees were sent home for no reason, and other public servants are working but not earning a paycheck. In Massachusetts, 8,000 federal employees have been furloughed, and nearly 4,600 state workers whose positions are federally funded could find themselves out of work if the shutdown continues. With far too many people still unemployed in Massachusetts, administrative funding for unemployment insurance has stopped, and benefits processing won't be able to continue with federal support after December.

Cancer patients have been turned away from clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health, and veterans' benefits are at risk. Basic nutrition services for pregnant women and new moms will be disrupted. Small businesses won't be able to get federal loan guarantees, and Social Security offices are offering limited services for seniors.

Hundreds of thousands of people visit Massachusetts to enjoy the commonwealth's natural beauty each year, but popular tourist destinations like Cape Cod National Seashore and Woods Hole Science Aquarium have been closed to the public. Many local businesses also depend on tourism, and they will be forced to take an economic hit because of the shutdown.

In August, I visited Joint Base Cape Cod to see the great work our armed servicemen and -women are doing to protect our communities and keep our families safe. But when the government shutdown began, hundreds of civilian employees were sent home and their important work was put on hold. Many of these employees have now been allowed to return to work, but a number of programs are still not up and running and workers remain furloughed.

It's clear that this government shutdown is bad for families on the Cape and across Massachusetts.

There is a lot of talk about gridlock or dysfunction in Washington, and once again Congress seems incapable of coming together to find a solution. The Senate has passed bills to keep the government open and to keep funding going, but Republicans in the House of Representatives have rejected those bills unless the president agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The ACA is a law that has passed the House and Senate, has been signed into law by the president, and has been reviewed by the Supreme Court. It is already helping millions of Americans access critical health care services. The ACA is not going anywhere.

The Senate has compromised, offering bills that would temporarily keep funding at levels that maintain the sequester cuts. We've seen the devastating impact these cuts are having on our communities, and we hate them, but we also know that keeping the government shut down is simply not an option. Unfortunately, extremist Republicans in the House have continued to say no - they won't support reasonable compromises to keep the government open, and they won't even let the House vote on a bill to end the shutdown that's supported by majorities in the Senate and in the House.

We've got real work to do in Congress. We should be focusing on supporting job creation, strengthening our economy and making the critical investments in education, infrastructure and research that help us build a future. Instead, we're facing another crisis created by political posturing.

The American people are tired of this government shutdown. It's past time for Congress to come together, to pass a funding resolution, and to get back to doing the work people in Massachusetts and across the country sent us here to do.

Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Cambridge, represents Massachusetts in the United States Senate.

Read the op-ed at the Cape Cod Times website here.

By:  Senator Elizabeth Warren
Source: Cape Cod Times