The current budget crisis could be resolved if the Speaker of the House of Representatives would allow members to vote on a “clean” continuing resolution, U.S. Rep. John Barrow said Monday.
The Democratic congressman, whose 12th District covers much of the Augusta area, spoke to a group of constituents Monday at the Columbia County Government Complex in Evans.
He told those gathered that enough Republican support was there to end the standoff if House Speaker John Boehner will allow a vote that did not include defunding the Affordable Care Act.
“I think it would pass if he would allow it,” Barrow said. “He’s the traffic cop. He’s the one who gets to decide what we vote on.”
Whether that will happen, remains to be seen. Boehner has said he will not allow such a vote.
Barrow said the government shutdown was forced by a small faction of Republicans and it will be up to Boehner and House leadership to end the stalemate.
“We don’t have to shut down 99 percent of the government because we don’t agree on one percent,” he said. “It looks like those folks who started this are going to have to feel more pain before this is over.”
The last time Congress passed a budget was five years ago. Since then, both houses have voted to continue spending based on that budget in several “continuing resolutions.”
Barrow said the fact that Congress continues to debate and vote on continuing resolutions instead of passing a new budget is a failure of the leadership to set priorities.
“You can’t tell me that our priorities are the same as they were five years ago,” he said.
YeSun Wiltse asked Barrow why he voted against the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” before it became law, but has not supported the effort to defund it now that is being implemented.
Barrow said all his votes on Obamacare have been consistent to the position taken by former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, to “repeal and replace” the law.
Barrow said there are some things in the law “worth keeping,” such as the so-called “Patient’s Bill of Rights” that creates a structure for immediate appeals to coverage decisions made by insurance companies. He also supports protections for people with pre-existing health conditions, who would not otherwise be able to get health insurance.
He is opposed to portions of the law that require employers to offer health insurance and also opposed the “individual mandate,” which requires most people to buy health insurance or to pay a penalty.
Barrow said there is room for President Obama to negotiate without defunding the healthcare law.
He said he would support repealing the 2.3 percent excise tax on the sale of medical devices, and replacing it with another funding option.
“I think that is our most likely out,” he said.
If the standoff continues to Oct. 17 – deadline for Congress to raise the debt limit – Barrow said the consequences could be dire. Failure to raise the debt ceiling would be “very damaging” to the United States, he said.
“We don’t even know how damaging it could be,” Barrow said. “It is like going out onto thin ice. You don’t know you’ve gone too far until it is too late.”