Political Kick the Can?

Oct 21, 2013

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill just ended one battle that cost Virginia countless millions of dollars, but the deal merely kicks the can down the road. 

Democrats are claiming a victory after they brokered a deal to flip the government’s light on and extend the nation’s borrowing limit. Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner says the fallout of the shutdown and near default should send a message to the G-O-P. 

“Anybody who would be as reckless to try this scheme again I think needs to get their economic knowledge checked," said Warner.

Northern Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly says there’s one big take away from the brawl.  “Obamacare. That fight is over. We can make it better, but if you are bound and determined to repeal it and defund it and whack at it anyway you can, he will be steadfast in opposing that and so will the Democrats.”

But many Republicans are saying, ‘not so fast.’ Virginia Congressman Morgan Griffith opposed the measure because it funded so called Obamacare and didn’t decrease the nation’s ballooning debt. He says his party hasn’t gained any leverage in the fight to undo the health law, but he says that can change.
“I don’t know – time will tell. I don’t have any confidence today that that will be the case, but politics is an interesting study and interesting science and things change rapidly, so we’ll see," said Griffith.

Besides Griffith, three other Virginia Republicans opposed the deal to turn the government’s lights on and avoid a potential default: Randy Forbes, Robert Hurt and Bob Goodlatte. After the late night vote Goodlatte walked away unwilling to discuss his vote to keep the government closed. But the block of 144 Republicans who opposed the deal don’t seem to be surrendering.

Griffith says he’s ready to make the same demands in the next round of the budget battle. “But we are where we’re at and we go on to fight another time.”

Every Democrat in the state supported the measure along with four Republicans, including Congressman Scott Rigell of Hampton Roads. He says he had to swallow hard to support the final deal.  “And I didn’t like having to do it, but that was the only way we could open up the government.”

While many parts of the final package were distasteful to him, Rigell says it’s good party leaders finally used the bill to set up a process to get back to a normal way of funding the government: through taking up and debating individual spending bills.

“They all assured me and the conference that they would advance and pass all appropriations by December 15th, which really hasn’t occurred since I’ve been here in two years and 10 months," he said.
Rigell says lawmakers in both parties have been playing too many games by accepting short term spending bill after short term seeing bill, which just spreads confusion to businesses across the state and lawmakers in Richmond. “There is a lot of fuzziness up here that I’ve seen, really from both sides. And I don’t want to be part of it.”

Like Rigell, Senator Warner is calling for a long term deal that touches on all the sticky issues, like reforming Medicare and tweaking the tax code, which lawmakers have avoided for years.
“We still have to get our nation’s balance sheet in order and that’s going to require both entitlement reform and tax reform and I think a bigger solution is the only way we guarantee we don’t have to go through this nightmare again," he said.

To get there, Democrat Gerry Connolly says Republican leaders need to reach across the aisle.  “I’m sure it’s not a comfortable position for the speaker but if you want to get things done in a bipartisan basis it is possible but you have to look past normal party divisions.”

Lawmakers now have about two months to work out a budget deal that has evaded lawmakers for years. If they fail to reach an agreement, Virginia’s economy could once again take a massive hit because of partisanship in Washington.