Senator is optimistic we won’t see repeat of shutdown, debt ceiling crisis next year
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont ., said Thursday that he believes Congress will be able to keep the government running and again raise the nation’s debt ceiling when the deadlines set last month come up in January and February.
“I think it will,” he said, adding, “I’m optimistic most of the time, anyway.
“It wasn’t particularly successful,” Tester added about the shutdown, saying that it has created a backlash for most members of Congress.
“It was more painful for some of the obstructionists,” he added.
A contentious showdown between the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and the Democratically controlled Senate and President Barack Obama led to a 16-day shutdown of most government services, with a last-minute bill re-funding the government through Jan. 15 and raising the debt ceiling enough to allow the federal government to pay its bills through Feb. 7.
The bill passed Congress Oct. 16, hours before the deadline to raise the debt ceiling and allow the government to sell bonds to pay its expenses.
Tester said Thursday that he said in September a federal shutdown would be “completely irresponsible.”
“And, guess what?” he asked. “It was completely irresponsible.”
He said his office heard — and continues to hear — from people who were impacted, from military veterans to business owners located near national parks to farmers who couldn’t get loan checks signed because Farm Service Agency offices were closed.
“What we heard most was, knock this stuff off,” he added.
He said some people are calling the event a government slimdown.
“But the fact is, it was a shutdown,” he said.
Tester said members of Congress seem more willing to work together with less partisanship since the government reopened Oct. 17, and that he is hopeful that will continue.
A joint committee, including Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, is working on a budget proposal to fully fund the government before the Jan. 15 deadline.
Tester said the extension also allows Congress to work on other bills, such as the next Farm Bill, for which Baucus also is on the conference committee, and a proposal to replace the federal mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a new entity that can protect the taxpayers and still ensure 30-year mortgages.
He said what voters saw during the “herky-jerky” of the confrontation over the shutdown and the debt ceiling is not what they should see in the government.
“We need to have success … ,” Tester said. “The political gamesmanship needs to be put aside.”
He said he hopes the increased willingness to negotiate and compromise will continue when the next shutdown and debt ceiling deadlines arrive.
“Hopefully, cooler minds will prevail,” Tester said.