President Barack Obama thanked the Defense Department workforce today in a video message and expressed his disappointment in Congress’ failure to approve a budget, resulting in a government shutdown.
“As president, and as your commander-in-chief, I’ve worked to make sure you have the strategy, the resources and the support you need to complete the missions our nation asks of you,” he said. “And every time you’ve met your responsibilities and performed with extraordinary professionalism, skill and courage.”
That might not be very reassuring to the Missouri National Guard, which must send a portion of its non-excepted (non-essential) workforce home without pay.
Major Tammy Spicer tells the Missourinet 1,400 members of the guard are full-time technicians whose positions were under review Monday as Adjutant General Stephen Danner and other guard leaders worked to decide how many of them would be placed on unpaid furlough.
“It’s a tough day,” Spicer said.
She stresses that active-duty citizen soldiers will be at the ready to respond to any disaster or threat. Obama is stressing that point to the American people as well.
“Those of you in uniform will remain in your normal duty status. The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency.”
Obama said Department of Defense civilians and their families deserved “better than the dysfunction we’re seeing in Congress.”
Spicer says the Missouri Guard is in the same situation today as it was as yesterday, analyzing the excepted versus non-excepted members.
“Last night’s passage of the Pay Our Military Act added some items that need clarification before we begin the furlough process,” she says.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill blames the U.S. House for shutting down government. She says jobs and businesses are now being impacted because House leadership refuses to allow an up-or-down vote on ‘clean’ funding bill, insteading voting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
“It is completely unacceptable that U.S. House Republicans are willing to shut down the government,” she says. “This will upset our economic recovery and cause thousands of Missourians real pain. They know that the President will not back up on his work to provide affordable and accessible health care. They know that the Senate will not overturn these reforms. A decision was made at the ballot box last November, and supporters of the Affordable Care Act were returned to office by the American people. We can negotiate federal spending and the budget. We should not negotiate on keeping our government functioning and paying our bills. It is time for Speaker Boehner to allow the House to vote on a clean government funding bill without the unrealistic and irresponsible political posturing.”
Her Republican counterpart U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt spoke on the Senate floor this morning, reiterating his opinion that the President’s health care law is flawed.
“Despite multiple glitches, bumps, and delays, Obamacare exchanges are opening today in Missouri and across the country,” Blunt said. “Meanwhile, a new CNN/ORC International poll released today finds that more than half of the American people think ObamaCare is a ‘disaster waiting to happen.'”
Blunt’s office says since being elected to the U.S. Senate, he voted at least 29 votes to defund, repeal, and delay the president’s healthcare overhaul.
Some 800,000 Americans are being told to stay home from their federal job today, and McCaskill says that includes many jobs and businesses in Missouri.
“Consequences will include: delayed benefits for our veterans; furloughs for 39,000 federal employees in Missouri; delays in vital loans for small businesses, and in Social Security checks for seniors enrolling in the program for the first time,” she says.
She counters Blunt’s disregard for the the Affordable Care Act, saying it is already working to slow the rise in cost of health care, and protect Missourians from the worst abuses of the insurance industry-banning discrimination based on a patient’s pre-existing condition, barring insurance companies from dropping coverage for a person who becomes sick, allowing young people to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until their 26th birthday, providing small businesses with tax credits to insure their employees, and requiring insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of their revenue on medical care rather than marketing, administration, and profits.
Missouri’s U.S. Representatives react
In the U.S. House, Missouri’s delegation also remains divided along party lines.
East-Central Missouri Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer calls the shutdown “a national tragedy.”
“The U.S. Senate has for the fourth time decided that purely partisan politics comes before the needs of the American people by repeatedly rejecting calls by the House to negotiate a way to get the government up and running,” he says. “Quite frankly, it is disgraceful that the Senate would chose to arrogantly reject a fourth bi-partisan House of Representatives’ continuing resolution to keep the government open, delaying the individual mandate in Obamacare for one year and eliminating subsidized health benefits for members of Congress and their staff.”
He says he has no choice but to furlough much of his staff and shutter his district offices until this situation is resolved.
Central Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler voted last night to avert a government shutdown and delay Obamacare’s individual mandate for a year.
“With our latest funding proposal, House Republicans are calling on the Senate to keep the federal government funded while providing fairness to all Americans who are being forced to comply with Obamacare’s onerous mandates,” she says. “It is clear that ObamaCare is not ready for implementation – yet the Obama Administration and its allies in the Senate insist on moving forward with provisions that have already been determined to be unworkable. Corporations have been provided relief from ObamaCare in the form of a one-year delay in implementation, and the Obama Administration has given more than 2,000 waivers to special interests. It is only fair for the Senate to join the House in providing the same relief — a one-year delay in implementation — to hardworking families.”
St. Louis Congressman Lacy Clay says the shutdown squares on Republicans: “Remember, this was their choice, not ours.”
“Last night…House Republicans proved that they hate the President more than they love their country,” he says. “The Republican government shutdown is outrageous. Speaker John Boehner caved into the anarchists in his own caucus who have shut down the government in an effort to kill the Affordable Care Act. But, that’s not going to happen.”
“House Republicans allowed their Tea Party tantrum to shut down the federal government and bring the United States closer to defaulting on our debt,” Clay says. “That’s selfish, irresponsible and wrong. And it proves that they have learned absolutely nothing from the last time they did this to the country.”
Republican Congressman Sam Graves, who represents most of the Northern half of Missouri, says the House has attempted to find common ground every step of the way, only to be shut out by the U.S. Senate.
“Senate leadership refused to budge an inch,” he says. “Additionally, the president failed to play any kind of constructive role in this process. He has the bully pulpit, and he chose to use it for political grandstanding, rather than engaging with the Congress.”
What happens now
About 800,000 federal employees could be affected. Military personnel in have already hit hard by several unpaid furlough days caused by sequestration this year. While Congress agreed to retroactively pay them during previous shutdowns, the inability of Congress to come to any compromise in this situation could put back-pay in peril.
The military’s 1.4 million active-duty personnel will stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed. About half of the Defense Department’s civilian employees are expected to be furloughed.
NASA will furlough almost all of its employees, though it will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space Station, where two Americans and four others are deployed. The National Weather Service will remain in place, as will the National Hurricane Center.
Federal air traffic controllers will remain on the job, as will airport screeners, and federal inspectors. However, some airports have warned of delays at security. The State Department will continue to process applications for visas and passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas will remain fully staffed.
Federal courts will continue to operate normally … for a while. If the shutdown exceeds two weeks, the judiciary will have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential.
Deliveries would continue as usual. Valerie Welsch with the U.S. Postal Service in the St. Louis region says because the Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations, instead relying on income from stamps and other postal fees to operate, its employees and services are unaffected by the shutdown.
The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees will stay on the job, including those at the country’s borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers.
Veterans can still be able to visit hospitals for inpatient care, get mental health counseling at vet centers or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Crisis hotlines and claims processes remain in place.