As thousands of federal workers in Virginia are locked out of their offices, lawmakers in the commonwealth are pointing fingers across the aisle.
Federal workers and contractors across Virginia are angry. Many already had to endure furloughs this summer and now the government shutdown is causing even more to lose income - and most workers report they actually want to be on the job.
Northern Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly says Republican attempts to delay the Affordable Care Act as a part of the funding fight put the commonwealth at serious risk. He points out that the median household income in his region has already fallen because of sequestration. “And directly attributable to the contraction of federal investments, so to shut down the government is simply going to exasperate that and only bring bad economic news to this region.”
Even with shutdown in place some Virginia Republicans aren’t backing down from their demands. Congressman Morgan Griffith says he’s glad the majority of House Republicans stood united opposing Obamacare… even in the face of the shutdown that now threatens to weaken the state’s economy.
“Certainly going to have an impact but so will not taking action, have an impact. And not standing up for what you believe in will has the most negative impact of all. And that is if you can’t look folks in the eye and say this is what I believe and then go fight for it, then what good are you at doing it? What are we doing here if we’re not fighting for what we believe in?”
Griffith says voters put Republicans like him in charge of the House because they wanted them to do all they can to undo the health law. “Look what we’re doing is good for the American people. And that doesn’t mean it’s pretty but we’re doing what we’re supposed to and what the founding fathers anticipated: we’re discussing budget items during the budget discussion. Spending money; we have the power of the purse. These discussions should be taking place here and now.”
Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine says House Republicans latest calls for Senate Democrats to start negotiating in a formal conference committee are falling on deaf ears. “It’s amazing that after they shut the government down over this, now they want to have a conference. We’ve been trying to have a budget conference since March and they’ve been blocking it. So look if they want to reopen the government we’ll have a conference. But it they want to keep government closed, it’s just not the time to talk. Reopen government and we’ll have a conference.”
It’s not just Democrats. A few Virginia Republicans are now calling on party leaders to end the government shutdown. Randy Forbes, Frank Wolf and Scott Rigell are breaking ranks with their party leaders over the funding battle. Rigell says demanding a delay to so-called Oabamcare won’t get his party what it wants. “My conclusion is no, that doesn’t advance our conservative cause.”
A part of the reason is Rigell has already seen sequestration impact the military and contractors in his Virginia Beach district. “And then put a shutdown on top of that, it’s just an unacceptable situation. I don’t think it helps our country.”
But these Republicans from the commonwealth remain in the minority in their party, which worries Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran. “I’m becoming very pessimistic that we’re going to get out of this without causing a whole lot of damage to the economy, not to mention to the confidence the American people ought to have in their most basic institutions.”
House Republican leaders continue to demand that Senate Leaders negotiate on the healthcare law, while Democrats refuse. That means for now, there's no end in sight to the impasse.