Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said Friday afternoon that Republican opposition to passing a budget and preventing a federal government shutdown is political grandstanding at its worst, and that all should work together to keep operations running while conducting long-term planning to reduce the deficit.
Unless a budget or short-term resolution is passed by midnight, all but essential government services — military and law enforcement, essentially — will shut down.
Tester said the Senate has been working to meet the House in budget cuts, but the House refuses to give, and now is hung up over a single social program.
“They’re going to shut the whole doggone government down because of something pretty extraneous,” he said. “We need to have people stop moving the goalposts.”
Tester referenced reports that the Republican House caucus giving Speaker John Boehner a standing ovation when he thanked them for standing behind him during the budget confrontation.
“This is crazy,” Tester said. “This tells me there is a lack of reality going on.”
He said the Senate has gone more than halfway to meeting the House in budget reductions — but the opposition has drawn a line in the sand over a social issue: women’s health.
He said the latest sticking point has been over Title X, Family Planning. That money should be kept, Tester said, as it provides screening, birth control and family planning, and is prohibited by federal law from providing abortion funding.
Studies have shown that every dollar spent in this area returns $4, he added.
“I’m proud to fight for it as a Montana senator,” Tester said. “Too bad not all of us who represent Montana see it that way.”
If the shutdown occurs, he said, it will lay off workers — he said he will keep five of his staff working so he can address the budget, the rest will be shut down — and will affect Americans who will not be able to receive services, including people who will not receive paychecks and benefit payments.
“The Montanans expect more from the House,” Tester said, adding “It doesn’t taste good at all.”
He said the shutdown also is likely to derail the economic recovery of which the country now is showing signs.
To balance the budget in the long term, Congress needs to be looking at long-term plans, including work to stimulate economic growth, with everything on the table, not just discretionary spending, Tester said.
“We can do it,” he said. “We cant do it if we’re playing games and political grandstanding.”