The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

October 6, 2013

Shutdown

When many of us were kids, if we acted the way the U.S. Congress has the past week — some Republicans in particular — at the very least we would have been put to bed without our supper. At the most ... well, use your imagination.

Actually, we have been very tired with the way our elected national lawmakers have conducted business — or lack thereof — for quite some time.

For far too many of them, holding onto their seat seems more important than doing what is best for the United States, emphasis on United.

There have been any number of bad decisions in the last few years, but shutting down the federal government has to be the worst of it. And obviously, many — House Speaker John Boehner in particular — don’t care who is getting hurt in the process.

Stories in recent editions of The Register-Herald have told of the fears of mothers stressing over whether they will be able to feed their babies the formula, milk and other nutritious items they can buy through WIC. Officials say that program will be OK at least through October, but if the shutdown is prolonged, funds to pay for it will be gone.

Millions of people depend on food stamps (now the SNAP card) to feed their families. That is endangered as well.

Another story detailed the dilemma of federal prison workers who are working without pay. Local food pantries, low on supplies already, risk being stripped down to the walls if the shutdown continues and people have nowhere else to turn for a meal.

Coal miners are at more risk because federal mine inspections have been cut. Social Security claims are going unprocessed. Almost every aspect of our society is touched in some way.

The trickle-down of the government closure could be devastating to a still-recovering economy. Many federal employees were already losing pay due to furloughs brought on by sequestration (another not-so-brilliant move). Now they must stay home indefinitely.

Others outside government may find their work hours, and thereby their paychecks, cut because of certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

That lovely piece of legislation seems to be at the root of this battle.

We aren’t exactly sure of all of the provisions of the act. Who is? Should some changes be made to it? Probably. But this wasn’t the proper way to go about it.

Boehner has let himself be backed into a corner by those House members who want the law repealed. No matter how you slice it, a Democratic-controlled Senate is never going to agree with tying the act to the budget bill. He knew that going in, yet he let himself be bullied. How does he save face?

Saturday, the House did manage a bipartisan vote agreeing to pay about 800,000 furloughed workers for the work days they are missing. But not without some of the derisive bickering that has prevented Congress from resolving the bigger budget issue. The Senate is expected to approve it, as well.

Here’s the crazy part: They will pay these people not to work, but those who are working, such as the prison guards, don’t get paid.

But isn’t such irony what we have come to expect from our elected leaders?

A quote from President John F. Kennedy making the Facebook rounds says, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

Congress seems to be doing the opposite of Kennedy’s advice. It is our fervent hope that members of Congress will see this quote and act accordingly.

Put aside the quarrels, the partisanship, the fears. Put up a clean resolution for the budget, fix the debt problem and move on.

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