Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, said this afternoon that he can’t predict how long the partial government shutdown will last and faulted the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate for refusing to negotiate with the House on a host of key spending issues.
“I had hoped that we could avoid a partial shutdown of the government,” Goodlatte told reporters in a conference call. “Unfortunately that has occurred. I had then hoped that it would be short-lived. Now I am concerned that that may not be the case because the majority leader in the United States Senate has decided that he is not willing to negotiate on any of the issues that are related here.”
Goodlatte said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has adopted a “take it or leave it” position by demanding a clean continuing resolution to keep the government running and refusing to entertain negotiations on issues such as the federal health care overhaul.
“The House is not simply going to do that,” Goodlatte said. “We have a lot of issues to discuss with him, including Obamacare, and his refusal to negotiate is essentially slamming to door on reopening the federal government. The House is ready to talk, and with debt limit issues approaching us within a couple of weeks, I think it’s really important that the House and the Senate get together and start talking about these issues. Without starting that conversation, it will be very difficult to get stuff done.”
Goodlatte said his office is attempting to determine how many federal workers have been idled in the 6th Congressional District. The U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs are the largest federal employers in the district, he said. Goodlatte said all of his district offices have remained open, but are operating with reduced staff. Goodlatte said he has asked to have his pay withheld while the government is shut down.
Goodlatte said the House will vote today on individual bills to fund specific government programs, including veterans health care, national parks and the National Institutes of Health. President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats have said they will oppose individual funding bills, saying the House is using them to avoid full funding of the government.
On Tuesday, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., sharply criticized House Republicans for using the shutdown as leverage to delay and defund provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. A day earlier, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said the House GOP strategy is a dead end since Democrats control the Senate and the White House.
But Goodlatte said a host of spending issues need to be resolved ahead of a critical vote later this month to raise the nation’s debt limit.
“Simply voting to reopen the government and then not having any serious discussions about the problems that led to the shutdown in the first place is not going to lead us anywhere, especially with the debt limit coming right behind,” Goodlatte said.