WILKES-BARRE — All three local members of Congress — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta and Matt Cartwright — said they are glad the government has re-opened and avoided financial default, and all three are cautiously optimistic that the same scenario will not occur three months from now.
“I hope this experience will help change the tone in Washington and that members on both sides of the aisle will re-focus their efforts on creating jobs and strengthening the economy,” Casey, D-Scranton, said.
Cartwright, D-Moosic, said while the compromise will provide the economy with the stability it needs, Congress must move forward together and do more.
“After more than two weeks spent facing off across a partisan divide, differences were set aside to prevent disaster,” he said. “Now we must return to our most important job – expanding the economy and protecting middle-class families. Let’s get together and actually pass a budget.”
Barletta, R-Hazleton, broke ranks with the GOP to join the bi-partisan effort to get the deal done that will keep the government operational through Jan. 15, and extend the debt limit until Feb. 7.
“I believe we are finally on a path to move forward and get back to the work of governing the country,” he said. “We cannot risk a default on our financial obligations, which would damage our standing in the world and threaten the retirement accounts of countless millions of Americans. With this action, we reopen the government, restore needed services, get people back to work, and ease global financial concerns.”
Barletta said that in the end, he chose to side with the American people and “avoid near-certain financial and fiscal disaster”
Cartwright said part of the agreement instructs leaders to name conferees to a budget conference committee. The hope is that this action will assure Congress continues the work of setting this country on a path to job growth and fiscal sustainability.
He said the conference committee, which is charged with producing its negotiated budget package in December, is the appropriate place to discuss differing views on the best way to chart a course for economic growth.
“The bottom line is I am guardedly pessimistic that we will get a budget,” he said. “We haven’t passed a budget in five years. However, I am guardedly optimistic that this scenario won’t happen again.”
Casey said Wednesday’s vote on the agreement does provide a certain amount of optimism that a budget could get passed. He said there are a half million people out of work in Pennsylvania — 43,100 in the five-county area of Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill.
“That shows a big problem,” he said. “The middle class has been hammered over the last couple of decades.”
Barletta said Congress could very likely be right back in same place 90 days from now if both sides approach the matter in the same manner.
“Unless leaders in Washington are willing to put partisanship aside, we could be running this country to the brink of disaster,” he said. “We have to be realistic and not put the American people at risk.”