The American People Deserve Better

Caution tape at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Photo by Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash.

Imagine going to work everyday just like normal — putting in the hours, getting your job done, and expecting your regular paycheck. Now imagine your employer tells you that you won’t be paid on schedule because of infighting among the leadership who could not come to an agreement on the company budget.

Would you still expect to get paid?

Of course you would.

This is the opposite of what is happening in Washington, DC right now. For millions of federal workers, this injustice could soon become a reality as the country looms toward another government shutdown.

Members of the Coast Guard, janitors, cafeteria workers, and other public servants could all have their pay arbitrarily put on hold because politicians failed to do their jobs. This includes people like Willie Jo Price, a cafeteria worker at the Library of Congress, who recently fought back tears worrying how she’ll pay her bills if paychecks stop arriving. While workers like Ms. Jo Price will be negatively affected, members of Congress will continue to receive their paycheck, unaffected by their own dysfunction.

The clock is ticking in Washington.

Lawmakers have only a few days remaining before the fiscal year expires at 12:01 a.m. on October 1st to keep the government open and prevent millions of federal employees from being denied their pay.

With only days remaining before the deadline, lawmakers are scrambling to reach a deal. The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate have vastly different spending priorities. Meanwhile, Speaker Kevin McCarthy is struggling to get his caucus in line as conservative hardliners make steep demands for cuts.

“House Republicans are in the middle of a civil war,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), House Minority Leader. “The House Republican civil war is hurting hard-working American taxpayers and limiting our ability to solve problems.”

Jeffries’ comments come as Speaker Kevin McCarthy struggles to appease conservative hardliners making steep demands for spending cuts. They have threatened to remove McCarthy as Speaker if he doesn’t comply. This Republican “civil war,” as Jeffries described it, makes bipartisan compromise difficult. Meanwhile, Jeffries and Democrats are trying to work across the aisle, holding meetings with Republican groups like the Problem Solvers Caucus seeking compromise.

If Congress fails to act, the real-world consequences will be immediate and immense — including grave threats to our national security. Over 1.3 million active duty servicemembers will be forced to work without pay, including nearly 170,000 troops deployed overseas. Vital civilian personnel at the Pentagon will be sent home, hampering military readiness.

Beyond the defense impacts, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed without pay until a deal is reached. From air traffic controllers to food inspectors to park rangers, Americans rely on these public servants. Even more federal employees, including TSA agents, will work without pay, leaving them struggling to cover bills and buy groceries. These impacts would also be felt in Maryland — as Mark Hand recently wrote in Patch: “nearly 140,000 federal employees in Maryland will be affected if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill to keep the government open.”

Nobody wins in a shutdown. Americans lose access to critical services. Federal workers face financial calamity and emotional distress. The economy takes a body blow as consumer spending declines. And the most vulnerable among us suffer the most.

True leadership requires courage and willingness to find common ground for the greater good. As a veteran who led diverse troops in combat, I know progress requires setting aside differences and uniting behind shared goals. In Congress, I’ll work tirelessly across the aisle to solve problems — not create them. I urge our leaders to follow that example now to avoid this needless crisis. Americans deserve better than manufactured crises from dysfunctional government. There is still time left, but the clock continues ticking down.