Possible Federal Government Shutdown 2011 Casts Shadow on Florida
Around the State
As Republicans controlling the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats leading the U.S. Senate try to work out a deal to keep the federal government running, state government leaders in both parties are crossing their fingers in the hopes of a compromise.
The federal government’s current stop-gap funding runs out March 4. If Congress can’t agree to another spending measure before then, the government will shut down.
House Republicans this week announced a plan for a two-week stop-gap measure that would keep the government funded through March 18 and cut $4 billion in spending in the process. Senate Democrats are considering the proposal.
Meanwhile, Floridians are hoping that any services provided by the state and funded in part by federal dollars, like Medicare and Medicaid, won’t be interrupted.
“You never want to see a government shut down, but you also don’t want to see the most vulnerable citizens affected by it. The federal government’s our partner on a lot of those programs, so even though we’re not involved in it, we could be affected by it,” said House Minority Leader Ron Saunders, D-Key West.
According to Politico, the constituents attending town hall meetings this week for two freshman Florida Congressmen, Daniel Webster and Allen West, welcome a government shutdown.
But Republicans are hoping to cut spending and keep the government running, too.
“The goal of Congress is not to shut down the government, but to cut spending. It is my hope that the Senate and the White House will similarly recognize the importance of agreeing to a temporary budget that cuts spending so that we may avoid the prospect of a government shutdown,” said U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami.
While Republicans appear prepared to play chicken with Democrats over the possible shutdown, they are also leery of the political implications a shutdown would bring. The 1995 government shutdown featured a showdown between House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton, and is generally blamed for the GOP’s poor showing in the 1996 elections, even though Gingrich disputes that conventional wisdom in a Washington Post op-ed this week.
“The only ones to blame for any interruption of government operations will be those who are unwilling to heed the call of the American people for fiscal responsibility,” Rivera said.
Yet Republicans at the state level are wary of another shutdown.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” said state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral.
Aubuchon speaks from experience. The homebuilder says gridlock at the federal level over a flood insurance program has slowed closings on real estate sales in his hometown -- a city that has had one of the worst foreclosure rates in the nation -- prolonging a housing crisis of epic proportions.
“We’ve already seen that happen on multiple occasions in the past few years,” he said.
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