Opinion from Rep. Jason Perillo
The shutdown of the federal government is now on its third week and residents of Connecticut, like those all over the country, are feeling its effects. While there are many critical parts of the federal government that remain open and fully operational amid the shutdown, there is a notable impact on the lives of many Americans. The national Republican and Democratic parties have each chosen to dig in their heels and the inability to compromise and negotiate their way out of the political fog they have created is a disgrace to leaders of the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and the President.
Here in Connecticut the state government works in conjunction with federal government and relies on the funding of the federal government for healthcare, unemployment compensation, social services, services to the disabled, public health as well as many other programs. While some of this funding will continue to be delivered some of it will not. An extended government shutdown will even further impact and inconvenience Connecticut residents.
The shutdown has severely cut funding for many vital programs including the National Institutes of Health and because of the cuts was forced to furlough over 70 percent of its workforce. These cuts have prevented the NIH from continuing some of its experimental trials including some for children with rare forms of cancer. The fact that anyone, especially a child, could be turned away from potentially lifesaving treatment because of an argument among Washington legislators is saddening. The people who are punished the worst by the failure of Congress and the President to agree on funding are normal Americans like these children and the hardworking employees at companies like Pratt and Whitney and Sikorsky where each company planned to furlough 2,000 workers because of the shutdown.
Both sides share the blame here. The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” remains extremely unpopular, and there remain a significant number of questions unanswered about its implementation, and the collateral impact of its enactment. But the battle has already been waged in Congress, in the field of electoral politics, and even at the Supreme Court. Bringing the federal government to a screeching halt won’t help.
Conversely, Republicans have offered spending measures which would fully fund the government as well as fully fund Obamacare, requiring only that members of Congress and the president be required to participate like all other members- reversing their current exemption. Democratic leaders were unwilling to even negotiate on this point making it appear that they would rather shut down the government than live under their own health care policy.
The people of Connecticut and the people of the United States should not be collateral damage in a battle of egos in Washington. The federal government is in place to serve and protect the people, not to harm them in a petty struggle for power. There are polling numbers released daily detailing who the American public blames more for the shutdown and who is “winning.” There are no winners in this battle for power over the federal government, only losers. With the American people stuck in the crossfire of this latest round of poor Washington decision making, many of us are left asking “are there any leaders left?”