LA CROSSE – Mike Jawson was told to follow the news to find out if he’d be going back to work.
Returning to his offices Thursday at the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center was exciting, Jawson said, but it also means getting up to speed after weeks of being shut down.
“It was very uncomfortable, wanting to work,” said the Center director. “Wondering how you are going to make up for it.”
Jawson and other center workers met with U.S. Rep. Ron Kind during the congressman’s homecoming after weeks of trying to broker a deal to end the government shutdown. He held a similiar meeting in Altoona on Friday.
“It was like pushing a boulder uphill, into a headwind,” Kind said of the agreement at the La Crosse meeting.
Democrats conceded little in the showdown, but the agreement only delays another tough budget conversation for a few months, said Kind, whose Third Congressional District covers the southern third of Chippewa County.
Local legislators were split on the vote.
Like Kind, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin voted for the measure. “Now is the time for both parties to work together to pass a responsible budget that invests in the middle class, strengthens our economy and reduces the deficit without shortchanging our future. The middle class families and small businesses that are working so hard to move our economic recovery forward deserve to have both parties in Washington working together to create jobs and grow our economy,” she said.
Her Republican counterpart from Wisconsin was not pleased the measure passed.
“America and its future generations suffered a loss (Wednesday),” said U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. “President Obama and (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid may claim a legislative victory, but they have proven, once again, they are more than willing to increase the debt burden on our children and grandchildren. They are willing to do it without enacting any fiscal discipline or reforms to address America’s long-term debt and deficit problem. I am not, so I voted no to this fiscally irresponsible legislation.”
U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Weston), whose Seventh Congressional District covers the northern two-thirds of Chippewa County, joined Johnson in voting against the fiscal measure.
“Raising the debt ceiling does not solve the fundamental problem that our federal government spends more money than it takes in. That is why I conditioned my vote to raise the debt ceiling on the inclusion of reforms to address our spending, specifically our ballooning entitlement spending, including the latest entitlement – Obamacare. That’s the responsible, common sense thing to do. Since the bill being voted on (Wednesday) does none of these things, I cannot support it.”
Early on in shutdown talks, Republicans sought to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act.
Both parties reached a “last- minute” agreement to increase the nation’s debt ceiling as the country risked defaulting on its loans, Kind said.
“We were playing with fire,” Kind said. “And that’s something we shouldn’t be messing with.”
The final deal included a small measure to provide more oversight when people apply for insurance through the nation’s new health insurance marketplace. The measure won’t require much more than what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was doing anyway, Kind said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who focused on Obamacare during the shutdown, likely caught heat from his own party, Kind said.
“Everyone was ganging up on Sen. Cruz,” Kind said. “I’m sure he heard from his colleagues.”
Kind called the 16-day shutdown an “embarrassing episode.” He apologized to USGS workers, who, like all federal workers, will receive pay for the time they missed while furloughed, thanks to a back-pay measure passed by Congress mid-shutdown.
“Congress has to stop using you as a pawn,” Kind said. “It’s not fair to you.”
The shutdown delayed much of the center’s research on invasive species such as Asian carp, and prevented workers from collecting samples when they were supposed to collect samples, Jawson said. Some of the work that could have been done in the past few weeks might now have to wait for spring because of the weather.
“It puts everything behind schedule,” Jawson said.
The shutdown-ending agreement reached Wednesday will allow the nation to continue borrowing until January. A long-term solution will be hard to come by, but any real consensus will have to begin with moderate lawmakers, working together from the center out, Kind said.
He pointed out that 144 Republicans in House still voted “no” on the agreement.
“The agreement last night is no reason to take a victory lap,” Kind said.
Kind’s last message to a group of USGS workers drew a round of applause.
“Get back to work,” Kind said.