By Sabina Mollot
On Monday at noon, after the government was technically shut down for two days, the Senate agreed to end the stalemate over a spending bill, with the Congress expected to follow, according to multiple reports.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has been in Washington, where she spent the weekend prepping for the Monday vote.
Earlier that morning, the representative of Manhattan’s East Side spoke with Town & Village on how government shutdowns hurt the economy, and why she, like other Democrats, blame Republicans for the mess (who in turn blame Democrats).
Reached on the phone at around 10 a.m., Maloney said, “Right now we are trying to get the government open again. You have to continue funding it.”
In a press release she sent out later, she offered some stats from a nonpartisan Bureau of Economic Analysis study of the 2013 Republican shutdown that found that it lowered real GDP growth by 0.3 percentage points on an annualized basis. “Economic forecasters, including those at Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Goldman Sachs, found that the 16-day shutdown in 2013 may have cost our economy $24 billion – about $1.5 billion per day.”
In 2013, 850,000 federal workers were furloughed. They eventually received back pay for $2 billion.
“Obviously with federal employees, we were paying their salaries, but we couldn’t get the work out of them, so this is what makes no sense,” Maloney said.
The federal government has shut down five times in the past 30 years and whenever it happens, Maloney argued, the economy has always taken some kind of hit.
“It sends the wrong message. It shakes consumer confidence, it can hurt business confidence,” Maloney said. “When the stock market opened today, it wasn’t much lower, but it was lower.”
As for constituent concerns, Maloney said the bulk of phone calls she’d been getting were about whether or not recipients of Social Security can expect to see their checks. The answer to this was yes, thanks to the automated system through which they are processed, although, Maloney warned, on Monday it was every recipient for him or herself if they have questions or concerns. “They’re not taking any new cases or answering any problems.”
She then went on to blame the Republican-controlled government for the shutdown, saying the Democrats had been ready to compromise on the issues that led to the gridlock, including protections for “Dreamer” immigrants and the president’s proposed border wall.
“They say it’s the Democrats’ fault, but how could it be the Democrats’ fault when they control everything?” asked Maloney. “They control both chambers. They control the White House.”
As for what Americans can expect until the shutdown is really over, it’s to see all the essential services carried out as usual. The mail will be delivered. National park sites will be open and in New York, so will the Statue of Liberty, a federal site that is currently being funded with state money, which Maloney said she appreciated was done by Governor Cuomo. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considered essential, “so that should be moving as well,” said Maloney, who has gotten many questions from businesspeople in her district who needed to travel.
Veterans can also expect that VA hospitals will remain open due to what the congresswoman described as a “cushion” of funding for such an emergency. “So it’s not going to hit right away.”
Both Maloney’s district and Washington offices are also still open. “I said everyone on my staff (gives) essential services,” she said.
Ultimately, Maloney said while immigration is a major issue for Democrats, she insisted the shutdown was about others as well.
“The Children’s Health Insurance Program is important for New York,” Maloney said, adding that the healthcare of 350,000 children would be at risk without it. Disaster relief is another issue.
“We lived through 9/11 and Sandy so we know what it’s like not to have heat and hot water and a lot of Texas and Florida are still reeling,” she said. “There are fires and mudslides in California and Puerto Rico.” Democrats, she added, are asking that if the Republicans get what they want, which is to increase military spending caps, that the same amount of money be allocated domestically.
Along with preparing remarks for the Monday vote, Maloney’s weekend also included attending the women’s march in Washington on Saturday. The original plan was to march in Manhattan with representatives of NOW, but instead she made her way through the crowds in D.C. with fellow House reps including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.