Congressman Thomas Massie said Thursday he felt a “sense of urgency” in the Capitol to resolve the ongoing government shut down that he didn’t have before last week.
In a conference call with reporters early Thursday, Massie said he envisioned a deal before Saturday that would allow the government to temporarily raise the debt ceiling to avoid a default, but was less confident a compromise to fully reopen the government could be reached quickly.
Massie said he personally did not believe if the Oct. 17 deadline passed without the limit rising, that the U.S. would default on its obligations, unless President Obama instructed the U.S. Treasury Department not to pay the interest on the national debt. “Personally, I believe, as does Moody’s debt rating service, that we would not default if we ran up against the debt ceiling.
“It would take somewhere between five and 15 percent of our revenue to make our interest payments, so there is no reason to default on the interest payment. ... If we defaulted it would be because the President instructed the treasury not to pay the interest,” said Massie. “We have to address the long term entitlement programs before I vote for a debt limit increase, there has to be something in that debt limit extension that deals with the long-term problem.
“In order for me to vote to raise the debt ceiling, I want to see some reform or cuts that would get us to a balanced budget in a reasonable amount of time,” said Massie, which to him means four years.
“I would not tie my vote for a debt limit increase to Obamacare, and I’m sure most of the congressmen here in the House of Representatives would say the same thing,” he said.
However, Massie said, he did not see himself voting for a continuing resolution to reopen the government that includes funding for the Affordable Care Act. “But I think it is important for the President to come to the table and say what he would do,” said Massie, “We sent three offers, and the third offer we sent does fund Obamacare, but it does change it in some small way.”
Massie was among the 12 House Republicans who did not vote for that bill because of his concern it would allow for full implementation of Obamacare.
“I would like to keep my options open and not paint myself in a box. I think it is important to consider anything the President puts on the table,”
“We think we have a pretty good strategy,” said Massie, referring to the ongoing stalemate between House Republicans and the Democratic-controlled Senate over funding the federal government.
Rather than one large massive spending bill, Massie said he favors passing numerous smaller bills to fund individual parts of the government.
“We have passed enough of those line-by-line resolutions to fund 50 percent of the discretionary spending that a continuing resolution will fund; none of those bills are conditioned on Obamacare,” said Massie.
As for thousands of federally-employed Kentuckians who are furloughed, Massie said he was “sympathetic” to their plight.
“It is a difficult situation and I am sympathetic,” said Massie. “I would like to get a resolution soon.”
He and his entire staff are also not being paid but are continuing to work, said Massie. “We deemed all of our staff essential and they are all coming to work. None of them will get paid unless there is some sort of resolution. I put myself in the same category voluntarily ... If they don’t receive their back pay, I won’t receive mine,” said Massie.
The House passed a bill Saturday to pay furloughed federal workers once they return to work, but it has yet to get Senate approval. The White House supports the move.
Massie suggested furloughed employees seek short-term loans to cover their expenses while they wait to receive backpay when the federal government finally does reopen. “The credit unions are offering advances at zero or near zero percent on their paychecks,” said Massie. “It is just a practical answer if I was in that situation. They are going to get paid,” he said.
Massie said the assumption has always been federal workers would get paid for their missed work “because that is what happened on the last 17 shut downs.”
“The last offer we sent to the President was not to defund it, so our reserve price has been lowered,” said Massie. “All we’re asking right now is for a reprieve from the individual mandate,” he said.
He said the tens of thousands of Kentuckians who have already signed up through the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect are not going to have to worry about it being defunded.
Massie said his office had been fielding more constituent calls asking him to negotiate to reopen the government versus sticking to the Republican position. “Feedback is conflicting. It is not overwhelming one way or the other,” said Massie. “I am listening,” he added.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.