Weekly Columns

I’m disappointed that the partisanship in Congress has resulted in a government shutdown. What is most frustrating is that this directly impacts the services Americans rely on. A government shutdown has real implications for seniors, veterans and hardworking Arkansas families who rely on the services provided by federal agencies. We need to work together to find common ground to get the government up and running so we can eliminate the interruptions in government services. 

The shutdown is already impacting many Arkansans. I talked with one Arkansas veteran who receives benefits from service-related injuries that left him disabled. I assured him we are working to make sure he still gets the benefits he earned. These benefits should not be compromised because of a government shutdown. That’s why I cosponsored legislation that directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue discretionary payments such as benefits for low-income and disabled veterans and education and vocational rehabilitation benefits during this lapse in funding. 

Prior to the shutdown, Congress approved the Pay Our Military Act to cover pay and allowances for active and reserve personnel in addition for Department of Defense civilian personnel essential to military readiness. Unfortunately, the intent of this law is not being followed. National Guard members in Arkansas and across the country have been furloughed. I joined a bipartisan effort to encourage Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to review this law so we can put these men and women back to work. 

A government shutdown is not in the best interest of our country. I wanted to avoid this situation which is why I voted to continue funding the government while making policy changes to the President’s healthcare law. Each of these votes was in support of House-passed legislation. Unfortunately, these bills did not have the support of the Senate Majority and triggered a government shutdown for the first time in 17-years. 

While I don’t believe a continuing resolution is the responsible way to fund the government because it is a short-term funding solution, we need to find common ground to provide the services of government. We will continue to encourage long-term planning and that begins with basics of passing a budget. This is the most basic level of governing. We need this framework to rein in spending and eliminate the waste and abuse of government programs. We need to pass appropriations bills. This proper process is necessary so we can avoid interruptions in government like we’re experiencing today. 

My staff is here ready to help and hear about how this shutdown impacts you. With a government shutdown, more and more Arkansans have the potential to be inconvenienced and we’re here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us so we can better serve you.