Congress’ inability to compromise threatens government shutdown, default - The Buffalo News
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Congress’ inability to compromise threatens government shutdown, default

Congress continues to prove it can’t – or won’t – get much done, but the notion that lawmakers are about to embark on vacation before hammering out an end to the awful sequestration is unconscionable and, if not resolved, could result in a government shutdown.

So far, efforts by a bloc of Senate Republicans and White House officials haven’t done the trick.

Failure to reach an agreement on the automatic across-the-board spending cuts and how to fund federal agencies in fiscal 2014 means the government will shut down Oct. 1. A few short weeks later, the Treasury will face the risk of default unless Congress can agree to raise the $16.7 trillion federal debt limit.

On the chance that lawmakers will skip the end-of-summer tanning opportunity and spend time in their individual districts, they should encounter an angry constituency. That is, unless favorable redistricting delivered to them well-to-do voters who are feeling few personal effects from the budget cuts.

House Republicans act as if they have nothing to worry about when it comes to constituent backlash. For the poor and middle class, this arbitrary and capricious slicing of vital programs to children, seniors, disabled people and even the military has been a nightmare. Bringing it to a deserved end will take the sort of bipartisan agreement that is all but extinct in this Congress.

Both the House and Senate have introduced bills around the sequester, with the House predictably embracing whatever mechanism can be put in place to shrink government and the Senate wanting to end it.

Republicans are not biting at any attempts by the president to produce compromise. But they are starting to snap at each other, and that might be a tiny, hopeful sign that this awful sequester could come to an end.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky, wrote what many moderate members were at least thinking when he complained that the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted three months ago. “Thus, I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration – and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts – must be brought to an end.”

Rogers’ well-penned thoughts should be enough for a compromise, but Speaker John A. Boehner has indicated his refusal to back away from the spending levels set by the sequester.

Decades ago, politicians concentrated their efforts on helping their constituents of various financial means. Today’s Republicans act like they have only one type of constituent and that group couldn’t care less about helping the poor. If true, then we have a lot more to worry about as a people.

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