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Bill Sargent, Mark Mansius and John Gay are writing columns on important issues for today.

Cooperation Takes
Two Willing Parties!

October 7, 2013

This week we’d like to start by asking you a question. How have you been affected by the so-called government “shutdown”? Certainly some at NASA have been furloughed, but most of us have not yet been directly impacted. And to our friends at NASA, John and I (Bill) can tell you, having gone through two government shutdowns, in the end you will get paid!  

If you look at what has happened it would be more appropriate to call this a “slim down” not a “shutdown.” The White House is using the same tactic it did during the sequester debate earlier this year.

“If you don’t give us what we want all kinds of bad things will happen …” but most of them didn’t happen, except for shutting down White House tours and this now barricading open air exhibits to punish World War II Veterans in wheelchairs! Today, much of the federal government is still operating: The Border Patrol is still on station; our armed forces are as well. Air controllers are still safeguarding air travel. Sure, there are parts of the government not at work, but by and large it still continues to function.

Then there is the ongoing blame game. We see letters to the editor vilifying the Tea Party Republicans. Mainstream media have piled on as well. But let’s look at the facts. The House has sent over 15 compromise proposals to the Senate this year. The Senate has refused to take them up or to compromise on any of them. The House worked the weekend before the “slim down” occurred; the Senate took the weekend off and didn’t come back to do its job until midafternoon of the last day to avert the “slim down.”

In the past, the normal process for working out differences between House and Senate bills is to convene a conference committee made up of Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress and to let them try to hammer out a compromise. The House has asked for a conference but, as of this writing, the Senate has refused.
Please don’t get us wrong. We are not about attacking Democrats. There are lots of Democrats who agree with us. They want to see the folks in Congress working together for the public good.

The problem as we see it is in the Senate leadership, and in particular Sen. Harry Reid. His leadership style is “It’s my way or the highway!” We know that the Republicans want to take control of the Senate in 2014 but even if they don’t, our Democratic colleagues should consider finding a new Majority Leader for the Senate, a person who will at least talk to the House and try to find common ground.

In the meantime, perhaps the best path forward is to pass funding measures that everyone can agree upon (e.g., funding the military, the intelligence community, the FBI, NASA and so forth). This would at least mediate the situation.

But again, the hurdle is Senate Majority Leader Reid who is blocking all attempts at compromise and who is following the president’s position, which is “I will not negotiate!” Most folks want change in Washington and that change is for our elected leaders to work together to solve problems and not make them!

Bill, Mark, and John