Despite all the partisan rancor on Capitol Hill on funding for the federal government, 6th District Congressman John Delaney (D) says he's confident lawmakers will come up with a solution. "I'm optimistic we can work this out because it would be really terrible for the American people if we didn't," he says.
If no funding bill is passed before Oct. 1st, the beginning of the federal fiscal year, the government will shut down. In Congress, some Republican House members say they will support legislation to keep the government going if their colleagues agreed to defund the Affordable Care Act, often known as "Obamacare." The Democrats have balked at that.
Delaney says those two issues should not be taken together. "Linking this stuff to the Affordable Care Act, to me, doesn't make any sense. It's completely irrelevant," he says. "The American people are supportive of implementing the Affordable Care Act. We should be focused on making it better so that it better serves the needs of the people. But we shouldn't be linking these things to the Affordable Care Act."
Congressman Delaney also says a federal government shutdown would have negative impacts. "A government shutdown disproportionally hurts people in the Washington Metro Area because there are so many federal workers in the Washington Metro Area," he says. "Depending on the most recent count, my district has either the third or fourth most federal workers in the United States. So it's obviously incredibly important to my constituents." Those federal workers include civilian employees at Fort Detrick in Frederick.
It won't just affect federal workers, Delaney says. "But it really affects the American people because there are services that American citizens receive from the government from all across the country. Shutting down the government will negatively affect those services," he says.
Delaney expects Congress will probably pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded for a couple of months. Then, legislators will deal with raising the debt ceiling.
The US Treasury Department says the government is expected to run out of borrowing authority next month, and will be unable to pay its bills, which could send the government into default. Delaney says this issue is very relevant, and irrelevant at the same time. "Very relevant because tripping it is catastrophic. It puts us into uncharted territory. The negative consequences to our economy, I think, would be very, very significant. But it's also irrelevant because it has nothing to do with the fiscal trajectory we need to change in this country," he says.
While he agrees that the country needs to reform its tax policy and entitlement programs, Delaney says holding the debt ceiling hostage will not solve that problem.
He says Congress members were scheduled to be back in their districts by late September, but they're expected to be in Washington for another week to try and hammer out a solution to these problems.
"We're lurching from crisis to crisis, and I think people want more from their government then that," Delaney says. "What I tell the American people is they have to express their dissatisfaction with their votes because we can't continue to live in a country where 500 people are getting in the way of the will of 300-million Americans, and that's what we have right now."