Opinion by Mike Lawler
(CNN) — Recent polling reveals that only around 25% of Americans believe our country is headed in the right direction, and there are a lot of reasons for them to feel that way.
For starters, for a lot of people, the economy stinks. “Bidenomics” has failed. Reckless spending and radical policies created near-record inflation, soaring grocery bills, rising energy costs and skyrocketing interest and mortgage rates.
Our southern border is porous, with over 6 million migrants having crossed over since Biden became president and drug cartels trafficking fentanyl into the United States, contributing to a scourge that’s resulted in the deaths of roughly 70,000 Americans in 2022.
But one of the biggest reasons that Americans are frustrated is the insistence of too many politicians in Washington – including in my own party – to place partisanship and gridlock over compromise and results. That’s why we are barreling toward a shutdown rather than agreeing on a spending package to keep the federal government working.
Recently, I got some attention for calling the antics within my own House Republican Conference to derail a funding agreement “a clown show” – but I don’t apologize one bit for saying it.
In 2022, voters elected a House Republican majority, in large part thanks to my home state of New York, to serve as a check and balance on Biden’s administration. They undoubtedly expected us to govern and work together to solve problems.
Unfortunately, a small handful of people in the House GOP conference believe that their voices are the only ones that matter. Worse, they seemingly live in an alternate reality where Republicans control the White House and the US Senate as well as the House of Representatives.
Newsflash ladies and gents: We don’t.
And we don’t, in part, because too many middle-of-the-road Americans dislike the national Republican brand, embodied by people like Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is a key force in the funding stalemate. Gaetz could never win an election in a swing district like mine. He would get drubbed.
These folks either don’t understand the concept of divided government and can’t grasp the realities that come with it, or they care more about whipping up elements of our party’s base so they can milk them for $5 contributions online.
That reality is as follows. For months, Congress has been working through the appropriations process, with Republicans crafting 12 appropriation bills. Party members all agree that it’s our responsibility to rein in the size and scope of government and reverse the reckless spending – trillions in new outlays – under Biden.
Unfortunately, neither the Republican-controlled House nor Democrat-led Senate will be able to pass all 12 of these bills before the September 30 deadline when government funding runs out. As a result, Congress must pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government temporarily while we continue to negotiate a more detailed and comprehensive appropriations bill.
It is our job as members of Congress to act responsibly by scrutinizing the funding proposals and advocating for appropriate limits and priorities while still advancing the ball. Instead, a bunch of malcontents from my own party are trying to shut it all down for their own self-aggrandizement, and I won’t sit idly by and stay silent about what they’re doing. These folks don’t know what they want, they can’t define a win, they won’t accept “yes” for an answer, and they refuse to work together as a team.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy proposed a fiscally conservative CR that would reduce current spending by 8% while enacting, as he put it, the strongest border security provisions in more than a century. As someone who represents a suburban district feeling the impacts of New York City’s self-induced migrant crisis, I know this measure could not be more critical.
My constituents sent me here to represent their interests, and let me tell you, no one wins in a government shutdown. Especially not the hardworking citizens in New York’s 17th District who depend on government services.
To my colleagues who are dead set against a CR: There’s a difference between standing by your principles and being so rigid that you undermine the very outcomes your principles are supposed to support. A CR is not about conceding defeat or selling out. It’s about pragmatism. It’s about understanding that governance is about balance and compromise.
The challenge for all of us is to put the American people first. If members of my own party refuse to pass a CR, then I’ll take action without them, joining hands with those across the aisle to get this done. Bipartisanship isn’t a sign of weakness, and it isn’t something to be derided; it’s a sign of a functional democracy.
As we inch closer to a potential shutdown, my commitment remains unwavering: I will not let the government turn the lights out on the most vulnerable in our society because a handful of representatives can’t distinguish between standing for something and falling for anything.
Let’s get to work.
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