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September 29, 2023

U.S. Reps Trone, Ruppersberger: Maryland ‘will be among those hardest hit by a shutdown’ | READER COMMENTARY

Credit: Baltimore Sun

Without additional funding passed, the U.S. government will shut down at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 1. As Maryland congressmen serving on the House Appropriations Committee — the committee responsible for passing government funding legislation — we’re here to break down what a shutdown would mean for our state and, equally important, how we got here.

Back in May, congressional leadership and President Joe Biden reached a bipartisan agreement that ensured the federal government wouldn’t default on its debt, and set funding levels for the next two years. Like most compromises, both Democrats and Republicans gave a little and, likewise, got a little. And, with a Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate, this is the reasonable compromise essential to keeping our government open and working for the American people

But if a funding agreement was already reached, why are we still hurtling toward a total shutdown? We’re asking ourselves that same question. House Republicans have reneged on the bipartisan debt agreement and wrote government funding bills at levels significantly lower than what both parties had negotiated. Now, without any appropriations bills passed into law and mere days before our government runs out of funding, House Republicans continue to demand devastating — and unsustainable — cuts to public schools, health care, child care, efforts to combat climate change and more.And so far, a handful of extreme House Republicans have refused to pass a measure to temporarily fund our government at current levels — a standard practice to keep the lights on and allow lawmakers more time to pass longer-term appropriations bills into law. This is peak poor governance and a calamitous waste of taxpayer dollars. During the 35-day partial shutdown starting in 2018, the U.S. economy lost $3 billion from furloughed workers, constrained agencies, and shuttered national parks. That’s money we will never get back. And what’s worse, this full government shutdown will affect the whole government and thus more vital public services.

Our state will be among those hardest hit by a shutdown. Over 144,000 federal workers and 48,000 troops in Maryland would be furloughed or forced to work without on-time pay, jeopardizing their ability to pay their bills or put food on the table. Not to mention that over 120,000 Marylanders, within days, would lose access to a program that ensures low-income pregnant women and children have access to nutritious food. Over 40% of infants in America rely on the program, known as WIC, to survive. Free and reduced school lunches could also be in jeopardy.Small businesses are also at risk. During a shutdown, the Small Business Administration would stop processing loans, halting a program that provides an average of $329 million in funding to Maryland businesses every year. This would put a huge strain on the small businesses that employ nearly half of the state’s workforce. A shutdown could also result in travel delays, suspended food safety inspections, a pause in the processing of housing and farm loans, interrupted Medicare and Social Security operations, and even the loss of SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) for our families most in need in the event of a prolonged closure.

But our troubles don’t stop there. All legislative business will be consumed by the government shutdown, distracting us from other pressing issues, like the opioid epidemic, our nation’s mental health crisis, and protecting our national security. Everything will be put on the back burner. It’s simple: A government shutdown will hurt American communities. It’s about time that House Republicans put the needs of the majority over the loud few, and pass a government funding bill that meets America’s needs. Marylanders will suffer the consequences of House Republicans’ inability to govern or compromise.

— David Trone and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger