THE question that every Washington state family, business and worker impacted by the federal government shutdown is asking today is, “How and when does this end?” How does a crisis that they didn’t create, which has reached into their paychecks and into many of their daily lives, finally reach a conclusion?
The answer that I have for them is a frustratingly simple one. Because the truth is, this could all be over tomorrow.
Overnight our state’s national parks could reopen their gates, more than 600,000 Washington veterans could again be guaranteed the benefits they’ve earned, Main Street businesses could access loans and thousands of workers could return to their jobs.
All it would take is for Republican House Speaker John Boehner
to allow a single vote.
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One vote — on a bill that is sitting in the House of Representatives, that the Senate has already passed and that continues funding the government at levels that Republicans and Democrats already negotiated — and this embarrassing episode would be brought to a close.
It’s that simple.
But thus far, over a week into a crisis of his own creation, the speaker has refused to do that. And the reason has to do with the same kind of backward logic that has prevented the House of Representatives from passing everything from immigration reform to a comprehensive farm bill.
Boehner hasn’t brought the bill to a vote because he knows it will pass.
He hasn’t done it because he knows that if he did, by all accounts, sensible moderate Republicans in the House would band together with Democrats to form a majority that could easily end this crisis.
It would be a vote that would mark an important beginning for the kind of bipartisanship for which the vast majority of Americans have been yearning. But it would also mark the beginning of the end for tea-party Republicans like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who have wielded a powerful grip over their party and our ability to progress as a nation.
For Boehner, holding that vote would mean finally confronting the far-right Republicans who have bullied him into holding our nation hostage over health-care reform. It would mean standing up to those in the tea party who will never acknowledge that Obama-care is the law of the land. Or that it was ruled constitutional. Or that despite all their efforts, across our state, health-care exchanges have been opened while the government is closed.
To be certain, the only way the speaker could summon the courage to stand up to these ideologues is for moderate Republicans to continue to come forward and call for the Senate bill to be passed. So far, more than 20 House Republicans have done just that. And every time another one does, this shutdown will come one step closer to ending.
When this shutdown does come to an end, as Senate Budget Committee chair I will be ready and willing to negotiate a long-term budget plan and end these constant crises. In fact, for six months I’ve called for the Senate budget that I passed and the one that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., passed in the House to be negotiated. But every time, tea-party Republicans have said no.
It seems they believe negotiations are only possible when the federal government and our nation’s economy are being held hostage. I couldn’t disagree more. I believe that giving in to that type of behavior would be a fundamental disservice to the families and communities that I represent.
It’s time for the days of a tiny political faction holding the entire nation back from addressing the much larger challenges we face to come to an end. And the only thing that stands in the way of that, and ending this shutdown, is Speaker Boehner allowing a single vote.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is chair of the Senate Budget Committee.