Begich: 'It's Getting Fairly Likely We'll Shut Down at This Point'

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

With only one more day to fund the government and head off a federal shutdown, Congress is still wrangling over politics and dollars.  The Republicans leading the House and the Democrats in the Senate can’t agree on a bottom line.  If the government does shut down, 800,000 federal workers nation-wide, including an estimated 17,000 Alaskans, won’t be able to go to work.

Democratic Senator Mark Begich says a shutdown is looking more and more likely with every passing hour.

“You know we’re down to just hours, maybe a day from now, and it’s getting fairly likely we’ll shut down at this point,” Begich said.

Begich places blame squarely on Tea Party Republicans in the House.

He says they’re being inflexible in negotiations.  Begich says Democrats are willing to cut far more out of the budget than they’d like to for the sake of reaching a compromise.  But he says Republicans keep pushing out of range their bottom line.

Republicans say there are some deal breakers:  they want to see money withheld from Planned Parenthood and enforcing environmental regulations.  But Democrats are saying no to those items, and Begich says they’re a distraction from the actual process of budgeting.

He says a shutdown would have harmful ripples throughout the economy, and he’s already seeing the threat of a shutdown have a negative impact.

“I sat here with ship builders a couple days ago, they said very clearly that every time we do this they can’t mobilize their work force. They have high specialties required in the construction industry – so they can’t hire. But then when they’re given a contract they rush around and hire so it costs more money for us.  It’s the worst way to run the operation.  Even without the shutdown, Alaska’s already starting to feel it and across the country starting to feel it.  With the shut down, we’ll clearly feel it,” Begich said.

Begich says agencies are struggling now to figure out which employees are essential and would stay on the job, and which would have to stay home during a shut-down.  He says it would impact agencies active in Alaska like the National Weather Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.