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Budget impasse, D.C. blame game causing hardships for Central Texans

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It’s being called a partial shutdown. One news outlet is labeling it a government slimdown.

But for Central Texas residents directly affected by the budget impasse in Washington, there’s nothing partial or slimming about it.

About 1,100 of Fort Hood’s 6,000 civilian workers were sent home Tuesday, many of them furloughed for the second time in less than six months.

Last time, what started out as 22 scheduled days off without pay were reduced to just six over a two-month period, thanks to some budgetary maneuvering in the Defense Department. This time, however, the furloughed workers are looking at no job at all until the current shutdown ends — and that could be a while.

With more sequestration-related cuts to the Defense Department possible in the coming months, it’s likely that many of these “non-mission-essential” employees will see reduced paychecks or no paycheck at all, even after the shutdown is over.

And those are just some of the Central Texans affected by the impasse in Washington. Veterans are facing potential delays in VA service; Fort Hood families have seen services cut and activities canceled; and area homebuyers have experienced delays in securing home mortgages because of credit checks that depend on IRS data for income verification.

So, who’s to blame?

Blame House Republicans for refusing to pass a government funding bill unless it defunds the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.” Blame Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama for refusing to consider separate bills to fund the government as long as changes to “Obamacare” are on the table.

Blame whoever you want, but blindly standing on principle and refusing to budge is not getting us anywhere — and people are suffering in the process.

When dedicated civilian employees who support our nation’s soldiers and their families are sent home from what they thought were viable, secure jobs, something’s wrong.

When Central Texans who turn 65 this week are unable to apply for Social Security or Medicare benefits because those offices are closed, something is wrong.

When Bell County residents who want to visit an area lake are turned away because federal funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suddenly dried up, something’s wrong.

When veterans who put their lives on the line in World War II are denied access to a closed national monument honoring their fallen brethren — then allowed in as “protesters” — something is wrong.

Yes, something is wrong — and it’s the all-or-nothing behavior of a group of House and Senate members who have put party affiliation ahead of practicality.

They may be convinced their cause is just, but Republican House members bent on defunding “Obamacare” must realize they don’t have the votes to prevail. It’s not going to happen — at least not until the next election. They need to move on.

Democratic senators who refuse to negotiate must recognize that “Obamacare” is fraught with problems and likely to bring unintended consequences. A delay in implementation of the personal coverage mandate — as House Republicans have sought — is not an unreasonable request. They should consider it.

The longer the stalemate persists, the more our nation suffers. And with the upcoming deadline to raise the nation’s debt limit, the need to compromise grows more urgent daily. Late last week, the Treasury Department said failure to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, expected to hit its $16.7 trillion cap next week, could bring about an economic collapse. Defaulting on the nation’s debts could cause credit markets to freeze, the value of the dollar to plummet and U.S. interest rates to skyrocket, the Treasury reported.

It’s time for Congress and the president to move past the bickering and finger-pointing and do the jobs “we the people” elected them to do — and to provide for our nation’s general welfare.

America’s future is at stake.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

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