Divided Government Requires Negotiations

By Rep. Adrian Smith

Unable to reach an agreement on a continuing resolution, the federal government went into a partial shutdown on October 1st.  This situation is far from ideal, and Americans and Nebraskans are rightly frustrated.  We would all like to see this situation resolved quickly, which will require both sides to negotiate.

The need to negotiate is actually built into the founding principles and structure of our Republic.  Elections have consequences, and the American people elected divided government.  With Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House, and Republicans in control of the House, no one should expect to get everything they want.

However, the President, many Democrats on Capitol Hill, and some in the media have called on the House to abdicate our responsibilities, principles, and constitutional role in government in order to avoid making difficult decisions.  President Obama and his allies have said they will not negotiate, while comparing Republicans to hostage takers, jihadists, kidnappers, anarchists, and even suicide bombers.

More than immature, this is not how our government is intended to function.  Leadership and good governance require us to talk to each other, find common ground, and agreement.  Refusing to talk makes compromise impossible.

It is no secret Republicans do not support the President’s health care law known as Obamacare.  A majority of Americans agree.  Insurance premiums and health care costs are on the rise, individuals are losing the insurance plans they like, employers are dropping coverage and reducing hours and hiring, and the initial implementation of the law has been a disaster.  With the opening of the health care exchanges, we now know the cost of the average individual health plan in Nebraska will increase 125 percent.

While I would prefer to repeal or fully defund the law, Republicans at this point only are asking for a one year delay of the individual mandate, and repeal of the medical device tax.  This is a fair request and reasonable, especially given the delays and exemptions the President has already unilaterally given to supporters and big businesses without the consent of Congress.

The Democrat-controlled Senate, without debate or an attempt to move to the middle, swiftly rejected each of our offers.  Hoping to avoid a shutdown, the House moved to appoint conferees to negotiate a compromise with the Senate.  In an unprecedented move, the Senate refused, thus forcing a shutdown.

Unable to agree to the larger funding bill, Republicans and many Democrats in the House are working together to pass smaller funding bills to reopen and fund critical parts of the government.  Unbelievably, the Senate even rejected House passed bills to support our veterans, members of the National Guard and Reserve, fund lifesaving cancer research – including for children, reopen national parks, and other priorities.

I spent a lot of time answering the phone in my office this week to speak to Nebraskans and listen to their ideas and concerns.  One furloughed federal worker in the Third District told me the most frustrating part of what is happening is the two sides are not talking to each other.  I agree.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this situation, and neither side is free from blame.  However, it is past time for Senator Reid and President Obama to come to the negotiating table.  Let’s talk.  Let’s find an agreement.  And let’s move past this so we can end this shutdown and address our many other national needs and priorities.

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