Having grown up not far from New York City and spending my first semester of college abroad in London, I felt ready to embark on a new city, especially the one where my academic interests are headquartered. I’ve always had an interest in American history and government which made the decision of whether or not to participate in the program pretty easy. But six weeks into my internship and life in our nation’s capital, I have found that Washington has represented hardship and negativity more than the citizens of the greatest democracy of the free world.
On October 1, I was able to directly witness the first government shutdown in 17 years. As of today, the shutdown has continued to rattle hundreds of thousands or workers and national landmarks because the individuals we as the voting population elected to represent us have failed. Two of the simplest and more important jobs Congress takes on each year are to pass a budget and give approval to the Treasury Department to pay the nation’s debts and bills. Instead, political agendas and animosity toward “colleagues” have prevented Congress from doing its job.
At the outset, moderate Republicans, particularly in the House, caved to the Tea Party and held the government hostage over the Affordable Care Act. Their attempt to delay, defund or outright appeal the law has failed. President Obama and Senate Democrats have held firm and will not negotiate the health care law with a “gun to the head.” Let’s not forget that the law passed by Congress, signed into law by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court.
Now, the focus of the stalemate has seemed to shift toward the debt ceiling. Once again, Republicans are reluctant to raise the debt ceiling so that our nation can pay its bills unless it receives concessions from President Obama and Democrats. By holding our debts and payments hostage through October 17, the Treasury Department would not be able to guarantee certain payments, including to Social Security and veteran recipients. Democrats have once again held firm and will not negotiate while pinned to the wall.
As a result of the government shutdown and debate over the debt ceiling, many of my favorite monuments and museums are closed. Instead of enjoying the masterpiece that is the Lincoln memorial, I find myself scouring the District for activities not impacted by the shutdown. My friend from home, who hasn’t been to DC in more than five years, is coming to visit next weekend. I’m still hoping to be able to fully show this incredibly historical city to him.
As Republicans look for concessions from Democrats in return for opening up the government and paying the nation’s bills, hardship, negativity and hostility plague our nation’s so called “capital.” I hope that before I leave I’ll be able to witness proper lawmaking and decision in action.