by Chris Harris
As news of the federal government shutdown that went into effect yesterday polarized much of the nation and many Americans looking for someone to blame, Somerset’s own Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers has his pick for who’s responsible.
That would be the Democrats, for choosing to protect “Obamacare” in an ultimatum that came down to leaving health care reform funding intact or keeping numerous government functions active.
Rogers, a Fifth District Kentucky Republican and chairman of the spending-minded House Appropriations Committee, spoke Monday night on the eve of the much-talked-about shutdown on the House floor. Rogers discussed the Senate’s third rejection of a proposal that would have kept government “open” but essentially gutted the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA) championed by President Barack Obama.
“This body has voted time and time again to keep the lights on in our government, and to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” said Rogers of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. “Unfortunately, our colleagues in the Senate have rejected these offers, and have refused to come to the table to find a solution.”
Rogers said that a government shutdown was not what he wanted, but that the chosen course of action — to go to a conference committee to work Continuing Resolution H.J. Res. 59, and keep trying to hammer out a deal — was the “logical next step” for Congress.
“This conference can provide a venue to discuss the differences between the House and Senate, have productive negotiations, and come to a final agreement that most can support,” said Rogers.
“The shuttering of the government is a very serious and difficult situation,” he added. “I understand that the move to go to conference on a Continuing Resolution is not the first — or the first, or the third — choice of many members here tonight.
“It is not my first choice either, but I believe this motion can help us move forward and provide a small gleam of light at the end of this long tunnel.”
Of course, the effects of the shutdown don’t mean that everything the federal government oversees comes to a screeching halt. Functions considered essential for national security — such as the military, emergency and disaster responders, airport security and traffic control — will remain in place. So will services including the U.S. Postal Service, unemployment benefits, Social Security checks, most benefits for veterans, and food stamps.
Less essential are things like national parks and monuments, which found themselves closed on Tuesday— in some cases, with barricades put around them.
As such, Rogers and fellow Congressman set about the task of creating new bills that would help alleviate some of these inconveniences while the federal government remains in the midst of the “shutdown” period.
One of these was the Open Or Nation’s Park and Museums Act, which provides funding for the National park Services, Smithsonian Museums and the Holocaust Museum until December 15, 2013.
“Our capital draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the United States — and all over the world — every year. To turn these visitors away from its highlights is unbefitting of a capital city,” said Rogers. “All over the country, our National Parks preserve our rich national heritage — and serve as a reminder to all of us of the history and vast beauty that makes our nation great.”
The bill provides funding at the current annual rate of approximately $3 billion. This is $2.1 billion for the National Parks, $775 million for the Smithsonian Museums, and $48 million for the Holocaust Museum.
“While this bill helps to provide stability in this segment of the federal government, our jobs are far from done,” said Rogers. “We can’t just fund the government in bits and pieces forever. ... I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and support the wishes of this nation that this shutdown come to an end in the very, very near future.”