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Virginia faced the most harm if Congress had failed to end the shutdown and avoid default.
Friday, October 18, 2013
The 16-day federal shutdown and close brush with financial default cannot be blamed solely on a handful of individuals whose perspectives are narrowly defined by single-issue campaigns. Purists exist in every representative body, but government cannot function without the calming influence of pragmatists. Those elected on broader agendas, from the man in the White House to the most junior member of the most obscure congressional committee, had an obligation to work earnestly toward a solution.
Adherents to pragmatism in the U.S. Senate found their voice and spared the country from economic disaster. Unfortunately, they had little support from other quadrants. President Obama should have taken the lead in resolving the crisis, but he inexplicably allowed long periods of time to pass without contacting House leaders. Better communication might have bolstered House Speaker John Boehner’s ability to build consensus within his own caucus. It certainly could have caused no harm.
Among Virginia’s delegation, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine supported the last-minute plan to end the shutdown and avoid default. They were joined by seven of 11 Virginians in the House, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republicans Scott Rigell, Rob Wittman and Frank Wolf. Local Reps. Bob Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith and Robert Hurt declined to support the plan. It’s a shame the delegation could not have been unanimous. These are not hot-headed, naïve newcomers to government who are unfamiliar and dismissive of even its most essential functions. They have devoted much of their careers to public service and understand the full implications of failure.
Of all the states, Virginia faces the most dire economic consequences from continued gridlock. It is home to thousands of federal workers and veterans as well as military bases and private contractors doing business with government agencies. A recent study concluded that metropolitan Washington, including the Northern Virginia suburbs, lost roughly $200 million in economic activity each work day that large portions of the federal government remained shuttered. While the effects may not be immediately visible in western and Southside Virginia, the prosperity of our northern neighbors helps to pay the electric bills and teacher salaries for schools here in the Roanoke and New River valleys. Default would have wreaked havoc on businesses and retirement savings.
In a statement, Goodlatte said the Senate plan “merely delays discussions on debt and spending for a short time.” That must not be the case. Negotiations must begin immediately to develop a fresh and sane financial plan that replaces illogical across-the-board sequester cuts with targeted spending reductions, entitlement reform and new revenue through the elimination of tax loopholes.
The Senate plan is a transitory one. Three months lie between now and the next deadline for funding government operations. The danger of default could re-emerge in February. Obama and members of Congress must bury their grudges and face the challenges ahead.
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