Congressman Cook Issues Statement on Ongoing Government Shutdown
I would like to take a moment to thank the constituents of the Eighth District of California for writing, calling, and sending letters regarding the current government shutdown. My staff keeps me updated daily on your concerns, and I agree with you: Washington needs to do better by all of those being affected by this government shutdown.
Since the government shutdown began two weeks ago, the House of Representatives has presented the President and Senate Democrats with multiple options to get this government back up and running. Starting on September 20, the House passed H.J. Res 59 with various amendments that would fund the government and provide fairness for the American people. The House’s first effort funded the government and defunded Obamacare. House Republicans then passed H.J. Res 59 with an amendment that delayed the individual mandate similar to how President Obama delayed the business mandate. The House passed a funding measure that keep the government open and put members of Congress and staff on the same playing field as individuals as it related to health insurance subsidies. Finally, with no bicameral agreement, I supported the final motion to sit down with my Senate colleagues to negotiate a way to fund our government. On party-line votes, Senate Democrats rejected all of the House’s proposals to keep the government open and have since resisted the House’s efforts to re-open essential parts of it.
While pundits and polls can pick and choose who is to blame for this government shutdown, House Republicans have tried to minimize the shutdown’s impact and have demonstrated they are willing to negotiate. In times when there are disagreements, the best way forward is to find common ground. There is nothing partisan or political about opening our National Parks, providing Veterans with the services they are owed, and paying our armed forces. These are just a few of the functions that the House has voted to reopen while the Senate refuses to act. Not one of these bills has even been allowed a vote in the United States Senate.
I am very concerned about the continued lack of negotiations and how the continued government shutdown is affecting the Eighth District. In the age of sequestration and in a time when America is scaling back its military intervention overseas, we must ensure our troops continue to have the support they need. Last week, Congress passed the “Pay Our Military Act,” which gave the Secretary of Defense broad latitude to decide which Defense Department civilians would be exempt from furloughs during a government shutdown. The law was intended to ensure funding for the Armed Forces (including active duty reserves). Initially, Secretary Hagel interpreted the law narrowly resulting in significant furloughs. However, under pressure from certain members of Congress, myself included, Secretary Hagel changed course over the weekend. Secretary Hagel consulted with the Department of Justice to re-determine which, “civilian and contractor positions provided support to members of the Armed Forces in active service,” and as a result, he re-ordered many furloughed workers back on the job. I still believe the “Pay Our Military Act” is too vague. Last week I introduced H.R. 3232, "Support Our Armed Forces Act," which would ensure that that all Department of Defense employees would stay on the job during any government shutdowns during this fiscal year. Locally, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms had furloughed approximately 1160 employees. Currently, there are thirty-five Republican and Democrat cosponsors for my bill.
I will continue to work with my House colleagues to fund important aspects of our government, while urging Senate Democrats and the President to meet us at a negotiating table. Thanks again for all of your messages, I really appreciate them.