I am a well-qualified environmental scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago, and today is my fourth day idle and without pay. I and nearly a thousand of my EPA colleagues—many of whom live in your district, like me—are paying a dear price for Congress’ intransigence concerning the Federal budget. And we are not alone; there are approximately 55,000 Federal employees in the Chicago area (including postal workers and military personnel) and more than 22,000 of them have also been idled.
Let me remind you that this is only the latest sacrifice; EPA employees spent seven days on unpaid furlough this year, because of the automatic sequestration (or “fiscal cliff”), an across-the-board budget cut that originated from the failure of Congress to reach an acceptable budgetary agreement more than a year before.
This week also marks the second year running that the House has failed to deliver a complete set of appropriations for the effective implementation of Federal law; my office ran on a series of continuing resolutions last fiscal year, rendering it both costly and very difficult to properly plan and execute government business.
Speaking for myself now, I am also in the third year of a pay freeze, again as a result of a cost cut negotiated with Congress. And while much of the economy has recovered since then, you can imagine that in three years’ time nothing else in my household budget has remained frozen, including my taxes.
It is time—rather it is well past time—that you join and recover a working majority of your colleagues to deliver a continuing resolution (absent a complete set of appropriation bills) free of any accessory provisions.
Let me add that the Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for several years; problematic portions of it withstood review by the Supreme Court. Last-minute riders to somehow roll it back are both inappropriate and a waste of effort at this time.
Furthermore, do not blame the White House for any failure to negotiate at this hour; it’s clear to me that you have long exhausted your opportunities to compromise during this session of Congress, and have delivered very few, if any, constructive alternatives to the process. To quote Will Rogers, “When you find yourself in a hole, first stop digging.” It appears that the extreme members of your majority have painted you all into a corner, unless you have the integrity and fortitude to do the right thing. For your district and for the country, please end the brinkmanship.
Do your job so that I can do mine.