As this fiscal year comes to a close on Monday, there is passionate debate in Congress, and throughout America, about how best to continue funding our government while dealing with Washington's spending problem - a problem that has led to America's $16.9 trillion national debt.
The two primary points of contention that must be resolved are the overall spending levels of the federal agencies, and whether or not the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, should be defunded. The Affordable Care Act is proving costly to those families who already have insurance, is having a dampening effect on our economy as businesses lay off workers and cut employee hours and is proving to be widely unpopular with the American people.
In my view, Congress should not increase spending. For all of President Barack Obama's dire warnings about the spending reductions (his spokesman indicated that the sequester would prove "devastating"), the lower spending levels did not cause the sky to fall.
Families have cut their budgets during these challenging economic times, and Washington must do the same.
As for Obamacare, I believe it is bad policy. It's expensive. It will put Washington bureaucrats between you and your doctor. It's resulting in dramatic premium increases (the Ohio Department of Insurance says the average Ohio family will see a 41 percent increase in their insurance costs), and it's a primary reason that businesses say they aren't hiring: compliance costs are too high. Our health care system was far from perfect before Obamacare, but the solution should not be to have the federal government take it over. And, all these negative consequences of Obamacare spell more hurt and more pain for America's hardworking middle class, those who get up every day and go to work to support their families and keep America moving forward.
On Friday, I voted for legislation that keeps the spending cuts in place while also defunding Obamacare. This was an unconventional measure, but the American people are becoming increasingly concerned about how the president's takeover of America's health care system will impact their lives. The House of Representatives has heard their concern, and took action to prevent it from being implemented.
The resolution has been sent to the Senate for its consideration; it's now time for the Senate to do its job. But, because Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate Majority Leader, is a supporter of Obamacare, it is widely believed that the Senate will restore Obamacare funding, increase the overall levels of spending, and then send that legislation back to the House.
These are challenging times - full of partisanship, gamesmanship, and irresponsible bluster in Washington, on TV, on radio and online. The president has been talking about a potential government shutdown for months, and many political pundits believe the issue favors the Democrats. Politicians, pundits and special interest groups all have their own spin and agendas. Some would have me defund Obamacare at all costs (despite the irrefutable math of Republicans controlling one-half of one-third of the federal government), or shutdown the government. But, shutting down the federal government could jeopardize Social Security payments, ground air travel, prevent our troops from getting paid and equipped, weaken border security and leave our veterans without the benefits that they earned in defense of our freedom, just to name a few. A government shutdown is not in America's best interests.
Others believe the president should be given everything he wants: more spending, rapid implementation of Obamacare and higher taxes. I disagree with this view as well. Yes, Obama was re-elected, but so was the House Republican majority. It is my constitutional responsibility to hold Obama in check when he tries to take America in the wrong direction. Elections have consequences, and the American people spoke clearly in 2012: They want the president and Congress to work together to solve problems and get this economy moving again. We could eliminate the onerous, job killing parts of the president's health care law, improve the parts of the law that work (like preventing exclusions of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and allowing young people to remain on their parents insurance until age 26), and stop Washington from spending America into fiscal ruin, all without threatening a government shutdown if the president would simply lead, and come to the table to discuss responsible solutions.
I believe our federal government is too large, spends too much and has no business taking over the health care industry. I'll continue to work hard to repeal Obamacare, replace it with patient-centered solutions and remove the barriers that Washington has placed in the way of our job creators. But, a government shutdown simply because I don't like the 2012 election results is not the answer. That would be irresponsible. And, there's far too much irresponsibility in Washington already.
(Johnson, R-Marietta, represents Ohio's 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.)