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Local representatives vote along party lines
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The area’s lawmakers split along party lines Wednesday as Congress passed legislation to end the 16-day partial government shutdown and avoid a national default.
Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, and 5th District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham, voted against the bill, while U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, voted in support. The legislation passed the Senate 81-18 and the House 285-144, and President Barack Obama was poised to sign it late Wednesday.
Before the vote Wednesday night, Griffith said he would not support the legislation because “it does not address any of the issues” that concern Republicans.
Those issues, Griffith said, include the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as well as “getting our spending program under control.”
Griffith supported a measure backed by House Republicans that would have required the president, his staff and Cabinet members to get their health care insurance plans under the health exchanges created by Obamacare.
“I wish the president would (agree to) live under Obamacare like those of us in Congress are going to have to do,” Griffith said in a phone interview.
The legislation also failed to delay the individual insurance mandate, Griffith said.
He also opposed the measure because, he said, it did not include provisions aimed at controlling the nation’s spending.
“On the debt ceiling, it’s just a clean increase, and I have always maintained that any increase in the debt ceiling ought to be accompanied by some sort of check or control on our spending addiction,” Griffith said.
He criticized a part of the legislation that would allow the president to raise the federal debt ceiling on his own — on just one occasion until Feb. 7 — but lets Congress disapprove of that action within 22 days after it is taken.
That provision is “a contrivance so some members (of Congress) can say they didn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling,” Griffith said.
“In reality,” he said, those who voted for the legislation in essence were “voting to raise” the ceiling.
Kaine, on the other hand, praised the compromise.
“This is what America wants us to do,” Kaine said. “They want us to work together in the Senate — Democrat and Republican. They want us to work together — Senate and House — to stop the foolish shutdown that has needlessly hurt individuals, communities and our prestige.”
Describing the bipartisan deal, Kaine stressed that with a divided Congress, the only way to find agreement and move forward is to listen to one another and find bipartisan compromise, according to a news release.
“Those who thought they could dictate terms were wrong,” Kaine said. “Those who thought they could threaten default were wrong.”
Kaine, a member of the Senate Budget Committee who has called for a return to normal budgeting since taking office, also hailed the opportunity to enter a budget conference and finally negotiate the House and Senate budgets passed more than seven months ago, the release stated.
Hurt said that while he shared the relief of many Americans at the shutdown’s end, he could not support the legislation because Senate Democrats and the president did not agree to negotiate before raising the debt limit.
“And now ... the president and the Senate have succeeded in defeating every single House proposal for reform and defeating every single House effort to reopen the federal government during recent weeks,” Hurt said in a statement after Wednesday night’s vote. “Indeed, they have gotten exactly what they wanted — a continuation of a spending and borrowing policy that has resulted in a $17 trillion national debt — a debt that amounts to $123,000 for every working American.
Hurt said he hopes the president will be ready to negotiate going forward.
“It is my hope and prayer that the president will engage immediately and in good faith with members of both the House and the Senate to put in place serious reforms that will address the looming debt crisis that threatens the future for our children and our grandchildren,” Hurt said.
Warner expressed both praise and criticism Wednesday afternoon.
Speaking on the Senate floor, he said, “To paraphrase Charles Dickens, in a way ‘It may the best of times and the worst of times.’ It may be the best of times because over the last couple of days we’ve seen leaders of the Senate ... basically say, ‘Let’s put away some of the disputes and end this crisis.’
“I want to compliment their work and the work of all the bipartisan efforts that have been going on to put this to an end. So in a certain sense perhaps it is the best of times. Yes, we’re about to finally do our job. We’re about to actually reopen the government. Put our workforce back to work. And by a whisker, we’re avoiding default and financial calamity that would ensue if we continued down that path.
“But it’s also the worst of times in that once again we took this conversation to the 11th hour. We have inflicted damage on our economy and our reputation.”