With a last-minute chance to avoid a default on the United States government’s debts, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland instead voted against a bill that would extend the debt ceiling until February and also reopen the federal government by extending federal appropriations until mid-January.
Westmoreland joined 143 of his fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted against the bill, which ultimately passed on a 285-144 vote hours before the debt ceiling deadline was to expire Tuesday. Another 87 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, ending the political stalemate that was sparked by House Republican leaders who refused to allow a vote on the bill on the House floor.
Republicans in turn blamed Senate Democrats and also pointed fingers at President Barack Obama for refusing to negotiate over implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare” and other matters.
The two-plus week shutdown of the federal government was estimated to cost the country approximately $24 billion. Although they will receive back pay, a number of federal employees, including those at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the regional air traffic control facility in Peachtree City, were forced to work for no pay thanks to the Congressional stalemate.
While those people were working without pay, Westmoreland’s staff was removed from furlough and brought back to work, though the Congressman insisted that was after the House unanimously passed legislation to pay all furloughed federal employees.
Westmoreland in 2010 advocated for a shutdown of the federal government but a spokesperson has insisted in recent days that Westmoreland didn’t want the shutdown. A partial audio file of that 2010 speech released online shows that Westmoreland acknowledged that Americans who receive checks from the federal government would not get them, and that the Veterans Administration hospitals would have to close during such a shutdown.
In another recent development, Westmoreland’s staff has removed a number of postings from his Congressional website that addressed the House’s political maneuverings during the shutdown, and such links from his social media feeds have also apparently been removed.
It is not known why those statements would have been taken down, and Westmoreland’s spokesperson could not be reached by press time Friday to explain the matter. However it is being widely reported that Republicans have taken a proverbial black eye in the crisis in the view of many Americans as their poll numbers slipped significantly.
If there is an upshot to the brinksmanship displayed by both parties in this political donnybrook, both sides appear to be taking things more seriously as budget leaders in both parties began meeting the day after the appropriations bill passed in an effort to find common ground for budget cuts to hopefully avoid such a problem prior to the expiration of the appropriations bill in mid-January.
Westmoreland in recent weeks has pointed to several attempts the Republican-controlled House has made in passing legislation to fund specific parts of the government during the shutdown, none of which were voted on by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Westmoreland is serving his fifth term as Georgia’s third district Congressman. His district includes all of Coweta, much of central and south Fayette County as well as Spalding County and others southwest of Atlanta. The district stretches south to include LaGrange and Thomaston and stops just short of Columbus.