Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Virginians have a right to be “mad as hell” about the partial shutdown of the federal government and he laid blame for the political train wreck on a faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives.
“This is a small group in the House of Representatives – one branch of the Congress, one branch of our three branches of government – who are saying if they don’t get what they want, they will shut down the government,” Warner told reporters in a conference call this afternoon. “And they have.”
Warner blasted Republicans for using a government shutdown as leverage in an attempt to unravel the federal health care overhaul. And he warned that the consequences could be more severe if Republicans use the same tactic to block an increase in the federal debt limit later this month.
“We can have disagreements, but you shouldn’t threaten to shut down the government, and now shut it down, especially when you’ve got this same crowd threatening two weeks from now to basically violate the full faith and credit of the United States of America when we hit the debt limit,” Warner said.
“On this issue, I have not seen this level of irresponsible behavior in all my time in public life,” said Warner, a former Virginia governor.
Warner criticized House Republicans for using the spending resolution to extract concessions for a law that was passed by Congress, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, and fiercely debated during last year’s presidential election.
“They couldn’t defeat it legislatively, they couldn’t defeat it in the court, they couldn’t defeat the president,” Warner said. “Now you’ve got millions of folks actually starting to sign up today. If there are ways to improve Obamacare, I’m open to that. But not when people say they’re willing to shut down the government until they get what they want. There is no stopping part of this crowd.”
“This would be like the Democratic Senate sending back to the House something that says, ‘Unless you pass our immigration bill, we’re going to shut down the government,’” Warner said. “That’s not the way you govern.”
Warner said the House had won a major concession when Senate Democrats agreed to spending levels demanded by House Republicans.
“What’s remarkable is the Senate agreed to the House’s budget number to continue operating the government,” Warner said. “So if this is a budget battle, this is what the Senate accepted. So to add these extra matters on is irresponsible beyond words. And Virginians got every right in the world to be mad as hell.”
All of Warner’s state offices, including the one in Roanoke, are closed today. A skeleton crew of six staffers is on the job at his Capitol Hill office. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., announced via Twitter earlier today that his offices also are closed because of the shutdown.
Warner also spoke up for federal workers who will be sidelined without pay until Congress comes to an agreement to re-open the government.
“I am sick of some of the degrading comments that have been made by some of these folks who shut down the government about our federal workforce,” Warner said. “These are folks who’ve gone three years without a raise. Many of them have been furloughed number of days over the last year. Now they have a government shutdown in their future. Who would join the federal government anymore?”