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Southwest Virginia’s delegation in Washington sees no imminent end to the political stalemate.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
As the partial federal government shutdown neared the end of its first full week Monday, members of Southwest Virginia’s congressional delegation saw no immediate end to the political gridlock that caused it.
“The optimist in me hopes we’re close to a breakthrough, but I haven’t seen any signs of that yet,” said U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.
The three Republican House members who represent parts of Southwest Virginia said they won’t support a continuing resolution to reopen the government unless the Senate and the White House agree to discuss changes to the nation’s health care overhaul and other spending issues. Senate Democrats, including Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, oppose putting conditions on reopening the government or raising the federal debt limit. Warner and Kaine have said that negotiations over health care and spending priorities should occur separately, and have sharply criticized the House GOP’s position.
“The only thing that’s changed is that the House continues to work very diligently to get the president and the Senate to come to the negotiating table and negotiate over out-of-control government spending, [and] Obamacare,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County.
The shutdown has closed attractions along the Blue Ridge Parkway, though the parkway itself has remained open. Griffith took the House floor Friday to note that the closing of Mabry Mill in Patrick County has had ripple effects on other businesses in the area, citing concerns raised by the operator of the Poor Farmer’s Market in Meadows of Dan.
“Folks along the parkway are just frustrated as all get out,” Griffith said Monday, noting that the shutdown is happening at the beginning of fall “leaf-peeping” season. “This is like their Christmas for a retailer.
“Where there’s no government money involved and you’re shutting people off, I don’t understand it,” Griffith said.
The House has passed a series of measures to fund specific government services, such as national parks, Veterans Affairs and research at the National Institutes of Health. The Senate has rejected a piecemeal approach, though it has joined the House in passing a measure to continue funding for American military troops. The Senate also is expected to join the House in passing a measure to provide retroactive pay for federal workers who have been furloughed during the shutdown. Warner and Kaine have introduced such a measure in the Senate.
But Goodlatte expressed frustration with the Senate’s approach.
“Why is it that they would prefer those bills over continuing vital research into diseases by the National Institutes of Health, or opening up our veterans administration offices for processing claims, or opening our national parks?” Goodlatte said.
Neither Goodlatte nor Griffith nor Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, would predict how long the shutdown could last. Hurt said the ultimate resolution may get wrapped into a deal to increase the nation’s debt limit. The deadline to act on the debt ceiling is Oct. 17.
“It is a terrible situation, I agree,” Hurt said. “But the principles involved, I think, are very important. When I talk to the people I represent, they agree that nobody likes the fussing and fighting, and I hate it. But the other side of it is these are important principles at stake.”
Goodlatte and Hurt have kept their district offices open with reduced staffs. Griffith’s offices in Christiansburg and Abingdon are closed, but staffers are receiving messages left there, he said.
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