By CALEB SLINKARD
U.S. Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) is currently serving his 17th term in Congress representing Texas’ 4th Congressional District, which includes Hunt and Rockwall counties.
Hall and other House Republicans are currently in a battle with the Democrat-led Senate and President Barack Obama over the appropriations for the 2014 fiscal year. The Republicans wanted to pass an appropriations bill that made changes to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare), while President Obama has stated he would not sign such a bill even if it passed the Senate.
Because Congress was unable to pass an appropriations bill or continuing resolution by Sept. 30, non-essential government personnel have been placed on furlough and essential personnel will continue to work indefinitely without pay until a new budget is passed.
Hall was also a member of Congress during the last government shutdown from Dec. 16 1995 and Jan. 6 1996. He responded to questions from the Herald-Banner on Wednesday.
1. In your opinion, what is the best outcome of this shutdown?
The best outcome would be a speedy solution for a long-term, responsible budget that would respect taxpayer dollars and defund “Obamacare.” Both are major steps in ensuring Americans — many who are struggling — more personal job, financial, and health security.
2. How long do you think this shutdown will last?
I had hoped the Senate and House could work together to negotiate a reasonable budget solution in time to prevent a government shutdown in the first place. The House made multiple attempts throughout the year to prevent a government shutdown, including passing appropriations bills, which the Senate failed to do, and passing a CR with varied amendments. The House also requested to meet in conference to negotiate a solution, which the Senate rejected. I do not know how long the shutdown will last, but it is my hope the Senate will meet with the House and we can come up with an amicable compromise on behalf of the American people.
3. You were in Congress during the last government shutdown in the mid-90s. How are these two situations similar and how do they differ?
In the 90s we had a President who was willing to negotiate, unlike today’s situation. And there was not a 24-hour news cycle, like today, that constantly focuses on who to blame and further polarizes a country that currently has very different views on the role government should play in the lives of American citizens.
I think it’s important to remember that we all want what’s best for the American people, but our philosophies on how to achieve that are very different. I believe, along with a majority of the people in the 4th District, that conservative values like a responsible, balanced budget and a limited federal government will promote the greatest opportunity for all Americans to prosper.
4. Many people are worried, afraid, or frustrated about the shutdown. Do you have any advice or comments for individuals in Rockwall and Hunt County affected by the shutdown?
As always, I urge constituents to call my offices if they need any assistance, and let me know how I can best represent their views in Washington.
My D.C. and District offices will be kept open in support of my Constitutional responsibilities to the people of the Fourth District. Staff will be available to respond to constituent calls and requests, provide information about legislation and processes, and we will continue to communicate information through press releases and other social media.
I would also like to encourage my constituents and the American people. Since 1976 there have been 18 shutdowns, and all of these were resolved without permanent harm to the government and often with positive outcomes, such as a balanced budget.
Do you have questions or comments regarding the government shutdown? Email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.