With the possibility of a federal government shutdown looming Oct. 1, Congress is scrambling to negotiate a deal that would raise the debt ceiling. But with compromise in short supply on Capitol Hill and a deadline only days away, many are anticipating a worst-case scenario.
Under a shutdown, only essential services, such as national security, would continue, and other government employees would not be allowed to continue working. Because the District of Columbia falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government, all city services would shut down as well.
Mayor Vincent Gray, however, said he would defy the federal shutdown and keep all city services open. All previous D.C. mayors have followed shutdown protocol, designating only public safety and other crucial functions as essential.
“All operations of the government of the District of Columbia are ‘excepted’ activities essential to the protection of public safety, health and property and therefore will continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations,” Gray wrote in a letter to the federal Office of Management and Budget.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who is also a Georgetown University Law Center professor, praised Gray’s actions and stressed that this was an important moment in D.C.’s movement toward more autonomy from the federal government.
“The city did its job when it passed a balanced budget and submitted it to Congress on time, and should not be penalized because Congress has failed to do its job,” Norton told The Hoya. “The city is an innocent bystander in this federal fight.”
Congress was supposed to pass a budget and submit it to the president for approval by Sept. 30. Without a budget in sight, Congress is attempting to negotiate an extension to evade a shutdown, but the negotiations have devolved into a partisan fight over the Affordable Care Act.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (LAW ’83) announced that unless Congress raises the debt ceiling, which is currently $16.7 million, the country would exhaust its emergency borrowing funds by Oct. 17.
“If we have insufficient cash on hand, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history,” Lew wrote in a letter to Congress.
Obama has responded by calling on Republican leaders to work with the Democrats in order to prevent the country’s first default in history.
“We are not a deadbeat nation. We don’t run out on our tab,” Obama said in a speech last Friday. “We’re the world’s bedrock investment. The entire world looks to us to make sure the world economy is stable. … Just do your job.”
Georgetown University College Democrats President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) criticized the Republican leadership for placing their party’s agenda above the stability of the economy.
“This move plays on the political fears of minorities and is very reprehensible,” Tezel said.
Tezel’s counterpart, Georgetown University College Republicans President Alex Cave (COL ’15), said that, though he is opposed to the Affordable Care Act, he did not approve of the way Republican leaders have handled the budget crisis.
“I can’t overstate how irresponsible it is of some of the leaders of my party to use the continuing resolution to threaten the law’s funding. It’s not going anywhere for the time being, and it’s irresponsible to threaten a government shutdown with a tactic that won’t work,” Cave said. “That’s a failure of leadership on the part of both parties.”