Rep. John Lewis on Impact of Government Shutdown

Apr 7, 2011

Lewis Position on Shutdown: "Democrats are fighting to protect the American way of life as we know it. Before Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare existed, millions of seniors, orphans and the disabled either depended on their relatives or lived in poverty trying to get by. They could not afford to visit the doctor regularly. They could not afford the surgeries and medications they needed.

"Before Pell Grants and federal support for education, students like me who grew up on a farm in rural Alabama or in the ghettos of urban cities had very little opportunity to attend the best schools in the country. If our families could not afford college, we could not go. There were no programs for gifted and talented children, no Head Start programs to level the playing field for all students, no food stamps for hungry children and families, no federal support to help first-time home buyers, no support for seniors in nursing homes, no support for homeless. All of these programs helped create independence for the seniors and the disabled, and they helped lift people out of poverty into the middle class."

"Republicans want to cut all of these programs before they cut everyone across the board. They want to cut the poor, but give more subsidies to big oil companies and to companies that send American jobs overseas. They want to end health care support for senior programs, while they give the wealthiest Americans huge tax breaks. They want to cut so much federal support for working Americans and the poor, but leave one of the largest expenditures in the federal government almost untouched-the Department of Defense. We have a deficit. There will be cuts, but the Republicans want to change the way Americans live. That is a betrayal of Americans' trust. That is not what we have been elected to do. Democrats will not stand for it. That is what we are fighting for."

Democrats do not want a shutdown. This is not about partisan politics or ideology. Democrats are fighting for fairness in budget cuts, not those that rob from the middle class and the poor and require no sacrifice from the rich.


The cause for the threat to shutdown the federal government is due to House and Senate Republicans refusing to negotiate federal funding. Democrats have already agreed to historic levels of cuts (roughly around $33 billion) to programs not seen in many decades.
The Republican response to these compromises was to continue to up the ante by asking for more cuts, adding riders to the compromise bills that defund NPR and Planned Parenthood.And to top that off they have released Rep. Paul Ryan's $6.2 trillion in cuts as their proposal for budget cuts next year.


This struggle began last year, when Republicans maximized their position in the minority to block movement of the annual spending bills.
For the past three months, Republicans have pushed short-term, funding bills to keep the government operating. Despite consistent Democratic requests, there has been minimal progress on a long-term bill just to keep the federal government up and running through September. 

Now that Republicans are being guided by newly-elected Tea Party Members, there is even less willingness and concern about good governance and the potential of a government shutdown.

• Funding the federal government week-to-week is completely irresponsible leadership and it prolongs doubt and uncertainty for thousands of Americans whose jobs and support are left hanging in the balance. Many students are trying to decide where they'll go to school next year, but can't because Pell Grant decisions and FASFA applications are on hold. What State, local, or international government funds their governments week-by-week? What family creates a budget day-by-day?

Just this morning, as a concession to Republicans, Rep. Steny Hoyer offered a "clean" continuing resolution to keep the government operating for another week at the existing levels of funding. A fair compromise right? That would allow negotiations to continue. Republicans passed a bill that cuts the existing budget by $12 billion,. This is not a "clean" bill but a backdoor attempt to cut programming without compromise.Every time Democrats try to negotiate, House Republicans change what they want. It is clear that are not interested in "good faith" debate or compromise. They only want to have their way despite the fact that they represent only one view of what is good for America. 
The House Republicans passed a "futile one-week spending measure" which has no chance of passing the Senate and the President has said he would veto it.


It's a one-sided approach. The cuts actually increase the deficit in some cases and give the rich a break and make changes that would drive the middle class into the poor house. Millions of Americas would be affected if Democrats do not stand strong, students, families, firefighters, small business leaders, the elderly, the sick, the unemployed.
People who are struggling the most will bear the brunt of a fiscal crisis that Republicans and President Bush created.
Also, Republicans continue to move their tax cut goal post. Democrats agreed to $33 billion in cuts. Now Republicans want $40 billion. We give, they ask for more.


If you're a federal employees, you should begin to review the OPM website and your respective agency guidelines.
Congressman Lewis is 100% committed to federal employees being paid retroactively after the government resumes. This is what happened in 1995 and 1996. We keep asking the Republican Leadership to pledge to not further punish federal employees - they refuse to commit.
If you're a contractor, you should discuss with your management how their contract is structured. Unfortunately in the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, contractors were not compensated.
If you are worried about accessing federal services, every agency is developing individual plans. There are certain things we know -
The impact depends on the length of the shutdown, but in the short term unemployment benefits will continue;
Social Security checks will continue to be processed and mailed, but new claims may not be processed; o VA hospitals will probably remain open, but there may be service or benefit cuts;
Other key defense and security services will continue, but it will be a case-by-case basis.
We've posted more information on our website and will continue to do so as information becomes available. If you don't have access to the Internet, call us back so we can try and help you find answers.

Congressional Research Service Report on Shutdown

pdf Shutdown of Federal Government

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