EVERETT — If a government shutdown had come to fruition Sunday, more than 121,000 federal employees in Washington would have been forced to work without pay or be furloughed.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, believes a fractured Republican party has been the cause of the latest dysfunction in Congress.
On top of the close-call of a government shutdown, all Democrats present including Larsen, joined by eight Republicans, voted Tuesday to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, as the House speaker. This marked the first time in history the House successfully voted to oust a House speaker.
A government shutdown won’t be good for anyone and shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip, Larsen said in an interview Monday. It was narrowly avoided Saturday after Congress passed a short-term funding bill, keeping the government afloat until Nov. 17.
In the case of a shutdown, 130,000 people across Washington would be kicked off the Women and Children Nutrition Program providing food for low-income mothers and their families. Seattle Paine Field International Airport in Everett also couldn’t train new air traffic controllers, creating lengthy travel delays here and at other regional airports.
A shutdown can happen when Congress fails to pass spending bills necessary to fund government operations. Last week, debates over spending cuts, Ukraine aid and border provisions delayed the work and brought government to the brink.
Larsen was supposed to stay in his Western Washington district this week, but instead he and colleagues went back to the Capitol to continue work Tuesday on a spending bill for next year.
If the same obstacles prevent Congress from passing a spending bill before Nov. 17, the government will shut down.
Larsen said Republicans in the House are proposing “draconian cuts” that would have big impacts on lives. For example, House Republicans wanted to cut $14.7 billion from Title I, a program that provides funding for low-income schools.
“Those bills will reflect some very serious cuts in important services,” he said. “So we can’t really tolerate what they propose right now.”
Larsen’s priorities are to maintain these safety net services. He also wants to maintain the levels of investment in transportation infrastructure.
“It’s one reason why we have such a low unemployment rate, because women and men are working in building the next generation of our infrastructure,” he said.
Larsen called the Republicans leading the cuts the “chaos caucus.”
“In my view, they are a fractured caucus, unable to lead and that is bad for the institution of Congress,” Larsen said.
He added funding for Ukraine is a big priority.
“I’m the strongest supporter for Ukraine aid,” he said. “We will get more aid to Ukraine to push back the illegal invasion of Russia.”