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Rep. Kevin Cramer, Published October 08 2013

Letter: President’s veto threats have stymied progress

The impasse over federal spending has many North Dakotans wondering what is wrong with our federal government. Some have been furloughed or are working without pay; others are discouraged by reports of World War II veterans being kept away from their open-air memorial.

The lack of proper legislative process is partially responsible for this series of events. Funding for government operations is intended to be debated line by line, agency by agency through the appropriations process. Instead, we find ourselves at a divide over an omnibus “continuing resolution” that lumps all spending into one contentious bill.

We began our work on the transparent appropriations process early this year in the House of Representatives, passing separate funding bills for national defense, military construction and veterans affairs, energy and water, and homeland security.

Together these appropriations fund military construction projects for Minot Air Force Base, the KC-46A tanker mission, the new Long-Range Strike bomber for Minot, and rural water development projects. They block a fee for water from Lake Sakakawea and prevent flood insurance rate increases.

Had the bills been debated and agreed to by the Senate and signed by the president, none of their funding would be affected by the current situation. But the Senate refused to take them up, leaving the federal government at a lapse.

The two sides in this debate have very different views on health care, a significant issue in recent elections. Most Democrats want to fund 100 percent of Obamacare. Most Republicans want to repeal 100 percent of it. Americans elected both parties, and they expect their leaders to make necessary agreements.

In an attempt to find compromise before the deadline, the House passed increasingly moderate and bipartisan funding measures, which gained support from Democrats. With the president threatening to veto each and every measure, all were rejected without concession by the Senate on strict party-line votes.

Since then, the House passed bipartisan bills to keep critical government functions running while seeking negotiations. We have voted to fund the National Guard, veterans services, national parks and museums, nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, retroactive pay for federal employees, and FEMA.

House Democrats joined House Republicans to pass every one of these important spending bills. While we are at an impasse on some key issues, there is no reason we can’t fund the things we all agree on. Reasonable Senate Democrats should demand their leadership bring these bills to the floor for a vote.

Throughout the week we will continue to fund such priorities as tribal programs, Head Start and impact aid for local schools.

While some in Congress are shuttering their doors to constituents, all of my congressional offices have been and will remain open. As I continue to work, it is important for North Dakotans to stay in touch with me, and for me to hear what is on their minds. We have taken hundreds of phone calls – many of them I took personally.

In addition to being engaged in numerous meetings over the past two weeks with the bipartisan freshman United Solutions Caucus, I will continue to listen and work with other Republican and Democrat colleagues toward a solution.

Funding decisions are not easy with the national debt approaching $17 trillion.

Compromise takes two sides at the negotiating table, and it is time for the leaders of both parties to rise to the occasion.

Cramer, R-N.D., is his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.