Blackburn speaks out on shutdown and debt ceiling
By Carole Robinson, Senior Staff Writer
“It’s like we are fighting a war on two fronts,” said Cong. Marsha Blackburn in a phone conversation late Tuesday after a vote on a Senate proposal was postponed in the House because it couldn’t pass with Republican support. At press time, both the Senate and the House were still debating these issues.
“The shut down is tied to the Continuing Resolution and the reason Obamacare is tied to the CR is the CR predates the arrival of the Obamacare.”
According to Blackburn, the last budget passed by the Senate was in 2008 until this year when it said it would only pass a budget with a tax increase.
“Obamacare came into being and signed into law after the last budget [was passed] so the CR doesn’t have Obamacare in it,” she said. “The administration is redirecting money [to cover expenses].”
The Affordable Health Care Act started out costing $900 billion over 10 years as a way to access health care insurance; it became a $2.6 trillion takeover of the healthcare system, she added.
“Because of the accelerated costs, Congress had to put it into the CR discussion,”
Blackburn said. “Everyday we are borrowing $2 billion just to keep the lights on.”
Tuesday the National Park Service announced an agreement with the state of Tennessee that will reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Oct. 16 through 20.
The state will provide $304,440 in funds to the National Park Service “for the sole purpose of enabling National Park Service employees to re-open and manage” the park for five days.
The national debt ceiling issue is completely separate, Blackburn said.
The debt ceiling has been raised 53 times in the last 45 years and each time it was tied to a policy change.
Twenty-seven of those changes were spending reductions.
This time, the House is attempting to tie entitlement reform and tax reform to the bill.
“Today we offered a short-term resolution,” said Blackburn.
The conditions are the House and Senate must go to conference to work out differences on tax reform and the sequester stays.
“Every penny we have to spend here in Washington D.C. comes out of taxpayer’s pockets and they expect us to be very careful stewards of those dollars.”
Since the partial government shut down began, the House has passed 28 funding bills and sent them to the Senate. It has also offered four different Continuing Resolutions. They were “dead on arrival” in the Senate, Blackburn said.
“We didn’t want a shut down and we do not want to default,” Blackburn said.
“The American people want checks and balances.
It’s increasingly disappointing and disheartening to hear [senators] say they won’t even discuss [the issues].”
If an agreement isn’t reached on the debt ceiling today, the country won’t default on the national debt, at least not right away, Blackburn said.
There is enough revenue coming in monthly to pay obligations to the military and entitlements like social security and welfare, but Blackburn questions whether there is enough to pay small businesses with federal contracts.
The short-term House proposal would allow current contracts to be fulfilled but no new contracts, loans or grants—no new spending obligations may be made until a long-term agreement is made.
“The interest comes first in prioritization, then trust fund obligations and we have to be sure we have enough to pay the bills,” she said.
The problem, Blackburn added, is that the proposal is dead on arrival in the Senate.
“It is standard operating procedure for the budget and debt ceiling to be negotiated,” she said. “They are never not negotiated. This is unprecedented. They want us to give them everything they want. Right now we are waiting for Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to come to an agreement.”
Posted on: 10/16/2013