By Congresswoman, Eddie Bernice Johnson
30th Congressional District of Texas
AUSTIN— It has been nearly two weeks since some of the basic functions of our government have been shut down because the extreme right wing of the Republican Party in Congress opposes the Affordable Care Act, and is holding the entire nation hostage because of its position. The impact of the shutdown is enormous. Hundreds of thousands of government employees, including many in North Texas, are not working. Some live pay-check to pay-check, and there is great uncertainty as to how they are going to pay their bills. Businesses in our region that rely on government contracts are being negatively impacted.
The shutdown is totally irresponsible and is doing severe damage to our nation’s recovering economy. While those responsible for the shutdown continue to receive their salaries, our military veterans are being harmed, new patients are not being accepted into crucial clinical research programs at the National Institutes of Health and the Internal Revenue Service is not processing refunds. Our nation’s food supply is at risk because routine FDA food inspections have been suspended. Inspections of food imported from other countries have also ceased. Our national parks have been closed, and the surrounding communities that depend on tourist dollars from visitors are suffering. Food banks in North Texas that feed hungry families will have to curtail their programs if this situation persists.
The shutdown in 1995 cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. It prevented the government from providing for the general welfare of its citizens. Important services to our military veterans were derailed, and our economy was damaged. There are reasonable members in both political parties who would vote to open the government tomorrow if a bill was allowed to come to the floor of the House. But the extremists are making all types of threats and insisting that such a vote not take place.
In essence, the Tea Party members that are supporting the shutdown are holding the government and the American people hostage, while they score political points with their base. They have an extreme dislike for President Obama, and are willing to do anything to halt the effectiveness of his presidency.
Their behavior is not political, it is personal! The Affordable Care Act was passed by the Congress, signed by the president and upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was a signature plank of the president’s 2012 re-election bid, which the majority of the American people supported. As elected officials we are sent to Washington to improve the quality of life for those that elect us.
I am working egregiously with my colleagues who understand the vital role that government plays in the lives of people to bring this disaster to an end.