October 22, 2014

Washington Must Quickly Resolve Impasses on Federal Budget and the Debt Limit

WASHINGTON -- The Concord Coalition today urged elected officials in Washington to put an end to the government shutdown by quickly resolving their differences over a budget for the coming year -- something that should have been done months ago.

Congress must also move quickly to raise the federal debt limit to ensure that the government does not default on any of its obligations, an unprecedented event that would damage the nation’s creditworthiness and risk great harm to the global economy.

“The government has shut down because politicians have failed the most basic test of leadership - principled compromise,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition. “This embarrassing and economically damaging spectacle must end. It’s long past time to fund the government for 2014, raise the debt limit and get on to the critical business of negotiating a fiscal sustainability plan.”

The need to close the government results from the failure of Congress to pass any of the 12 annual appropriations bills. The House and Senate each passed budgets in March but were $91 billion apart on appropriations for 2014. Since then, there have been no serious negotiations on a compromise.

Making matters worse is the insistence by the House that a funding bill for the government must repeal, entirely or partially, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). This demand has persisted even after the Senate accepted the House’s level of spending for a temporary funding bill.

“While fights over policy matters are not unusual in the appropriations process, it is unrealistic and unreasonable to condition funding for all appropriated programs on the dismantling of one particular program,” Bixby said. “This is even more true in this case because the program being targeted, Obamacare, has very little to do with appropriations. Its funding comes mostly from mandatory accounts, which continue to operate in the absence of regular appropriations.”

“While repealing or reforming Obamacare is a legitimate policy option -- depending on the fiscal implications -- the votes don’t exist to do that right now and, even if they did, the President would veto it,” Bixby added. “ Continued insistence that this demand be met will simply prolong the shutdown and heighten concerns that the impasse might also result in a failure to raise the debt limit in a timely manner. It is difficult to precisely predict when the debt limit could be breached so elected officials would be foolish to wait much longer to take appropriate action to avoid default.

 

Media Contact: Steve Winn, swinn@concordcoalition.org or 703-254-7828.

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The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to fiscal responsibility. Since 1992, Concord has worked to educate the public about the causes and consequences of the federal deficit and debt, and to develop realistic solutions for sustainable budgets. For more fiscal news and analysis, visit concordcoalition.org and follow us on Twitter: @ConcordC