Government Issues

Congress’ approval rating is at an all time low after governing from crisis to crisis this year.

As the country was ringing in 2013 the government was edging closer to the “fiscal cliff,” a simultaneous end of the Bush era tax cuts that were extended in 2010 and sequestration, that cut the budgets of government entities with very little discretion.

Congress extended the tax cuts, but failed to extend the payroll tax holiday.

“The payroll tax holiday was for social security, the employee portion of it. Congress had done it in such a way that employees were contributing 4.2% of their gross salary. So now they’re going to pay 6.2% just as employers do,” said Juliana Kennedy, CPA.

There was no compromise on sequestration and the cuts took place at all levels of government. President Obama spoke about the damage this could cause to research and innovation when he made a visit to Argonne National Laboratory in March.

“5% doesn’t seem like a lot, but it means we won’t be able to hire scientists with new ideas,” said Jeffrey Chamberlain, Lead Engineer and Director.

Locally the sequester was felt at DuPage Airport, head start programs in neighboring Aurora, and school districts who will see less federal dollars coming in.

“It filters down to the grassroots level and affects operations like us that provide a tremendous amount of economic development to the area,” David Bird, Executive Director of DuPage Airport Authority.

“We expect at least a 5.1% budget cut, which would mean probably $450,000 dollars that we would have less money to serve our families,” says Rebecca Spiridis, Associate Director of Two Rivers Head Start Agency in Aurora. “That impact may also mean then we would have to cut some services to children. We anticipate at least 50 children in our community would not be able to be served.”

As the year progressed, Congress passed continuing resolutions, or CRs, to fund the government, but that came to halt in October when they failed to pass a clean CR, instead attaching language to the bill that would postpone or defund the Affordable Care Act. The government shutdown because of the stalemate, furloughing more than 800,000 workers.

“We are at a point right now where there is a small section of the Republican Party that is very loud and has a lot of pull, and the rest of the party is being pulled in a direction they may not want to be pulled in,” said Suzanne Chod, Political Science Professor at North Central College. “And in doing so and attacking the Affordable Care Act as a part of this budget process is something we haven’t seen before.”

Along with the shutdown came the threat of default. The government wouldn’t be able to pay its bills unless congress also raised the debt ceiling.

After a 16-day shutdown Congress passed a clean continuing resolution through January 15, 2014, and raised the debt ceiling.

“The best solution would be to eliminate the debt ceiling,” said Brandon Sheridan, Economics Professor at North Central College. “Trying to pass temporary increases year, after year, after year, it turns into a political dog fight, not something that’s directly related to the economy. So abolishing the debt ceiling would be a nice first step. But then also real reform on spending and revenue changes.”

After disappointment in Congress reached an all time high, a bi-partisan budget deal was passed for 2014. It eases some of the sequester cuts along with raising fees like

Congress still has to raise the debt ceiling again, which Republicans have hinted they will not vote for without some compromises.

President Obama has also made it clear the administration will not negotiate over paying the country’s bills. So the brinksmanship will continue into the New Year.

The timing of when we will hit the debt ceiling is unclear, but is predicted to be no later than March.


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