I know there are a lot of questions surrounding the federal government shutdown, but I wanted to write you today and give you a little background to tell you what is going on here in Washington, D.C.
How We Got Here
It is the duty of Congress to pass an annual budget which would include 12 funding areas. Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are supposed to pass the individual bills, and then both bodies come together, reconcile the differences, and send them to the President for his signature. In the event that a full budget cannot be agreed upon by both bodies, Congress has historically relied on short-term fixes which keep the federal government operating under a temporary basis.
The latest of these budgets ran out on Monday and at midnight the federal government suspended operations for positions deemed non-essential.
My office is still running on a limited basis. I am in D.C. attending meetings and briefings and taking votes to try to open up necessary services while maintaining the position that we can't continue business as usual and move forward with Obamacare.
I was sent to D.C. to do the will of the people and you, the people, have asked me to stand my ground on your behalf.
Summary of Three Bills Passed and Sent to U.S. Senate
The House has sent the Senate three different versions of the legislation that would fund the federal government. Here is a summary of each of those continuing resolutions:
September 19, 2013: this bill would have funded the government while permanently defunding Obamacare http://gosar.house.gov/press-release/rep-gosar-defends-americans-votes-keep-government-open-and-defund-obamacare
September 29, 2013: this bill would have funded the government while delaying the implementation of Obamacare for one year, and would have permanently repealed the medical device tax. http://gosar.house.gov/press-release/rep-gosar-senate-don%E2%80%99t-run-out-clock-american-people
September 30, 2013: this bill would have funded the government while delaying Obamacare's individual mandate to purchase health insurance for one year and required all Members of Congress, all congressional staff, the President, Vice-President, and all political appointees within the administration to purchase their health insurance on the Obamacare exchange. http://gosar.house.gov/press-release/rep-gosar-votes-avoid-government-shutdown
Military Pay Protected by "Pay Our Military" Act
I was proud to vote for the Pay Our Military Act (H.R. 3210) prior to the government shutdown.
This bill protected the men and women of our armed forces from the shutdown by providing the money to pay the salaries and allowances to members of the Armed Forces (including active duty reserves and the Coast Guard) during any period in FY 2014 in which interim or full year appropriations bills are not in effect. Also, it provides the same authority to the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to pay civilian employees and contractors engaged in support of the Armed Forces during the same period. This legislation was signed into law.
Miscellaneous Frequently Asked Questions
You may be wondering what happens to federal services during a federal shutdown.
You have probably noticed that the U.S. Postal Service has continued to deliver your mail. They are not funded by the Congressional appropriations process.
Social security benefits, SNAP, and unemployment benefits will also continue.
Here are the answers for some of the most common questions via the Heritage Foundation (http://blog.heritage.org/2013/09/30/qa-what-happens-during-a-government-shutdown/)
Q: Would retirees and veterans get their benefit checks?
A: Yes, mandatory government payments such as Social Security and veterans' benefits would continue to be paid. During a prior government shutdown in 1995, 80 percent of Social Security Administration employees kept working because they were considered "essential" to making benefit payments.
Q: Would national security be hurt by a shutdown?
A: No, national security, including the conduct of foreign relations by the President, is considered an essential function that would continue.
Q: Would food and drug safety be imperiled by a shutdown?
A: No, the federal government would continue to conduct testing and inspection of food, drugs, and hazardous materials, because these are considered essential for the safety of Americans.
Q: Would we still be able to travel?
A: Yes, the government has said during prior shutdowns that the air traffic control system and other transportation safety operations are essential to the safety of the country and would continue to operate. So air traffic controllers would keep directing air traffic at airports around the country, and you would continue to be searched by agents of the TSA when you board a flight.
Q: What happens to federal law enforcement activities?
A: During a shutdown, all federal law enforcement and border control functions continue to operate. So the FBI would continue to make arrests and conduct criminal investigations. The U.S. Border Patrol would continue to patrol the American borders. The federal Bureau of Prisons stays open, and convicted criminals are not released.
Q: Would there be any problems with the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department's supervision of our financial system during a shutdown?
A: No, all activities essential to preserving the money and banking system of the U.S., including borrowing and tax collection, would continue. So the IRS would keep on collecting the tax revenues that help pay for the operation of the federal government.
Q: What if there is a natural disaster like a hurricane during a government shutdown?
A: Emergency and disaster assistance are considered essential to protecting life and property, so federal disaster assistance continues during a government shutdown.
Politics of the Shutdown
This evening, the House voted to approve the following bills:
H.J. Res. 70 - Open Our National Parks and Museum Act – this bill provides immediate funding for National Parks and Museums including Grand Canyon National Park, the National Gallery of Art, the World War II Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
H.J. Res. 71 - Provide Local Funding for the District of Columbia Act – this bill would let the District of Columbia spend its local money.
H.J. Res. 72 - Honoring Our Promise to America's Veterans Act – this bill ensures the VA can continue to operate and provide services, and guarantees veterans disability payments, the GI Bill, education training, and VA home loans will not be disrupted by the shutdown.
H.J. Res. 73 - Research for Lifesaving Cures Act – this bill ensures the National Institutes of Health can continue their work.
H.R. 3230 - Pay Our Guard and Reserve Act – this bill provides pay and allowances for military personnel in the reserve component who are in inactive status.
Even though these are common-sense solutions that will alleviate burdens of the shutdown, Majority Leader Reid and President Obama say they will not support them.
I am doing everything possible to resolve this situation fairly and efficiently. I will keep you updated by Facebook and email with our progress.
As always, you can follow everything I am working on in Arizona and Washington, D.C. through my website (http://gosar.house.gov) on Twitter @repgosar, or through Facebook at Representative Paul Gosar.