By AKANE OTANI
Nine days into a government shutdown that has Americans pointing fingers at both sides of the political spectrum, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y. 23) and 2014 hopeful Democrat Martha Robertson ’75 are sparring over who is to blame for Capitol Hill’s gridlock.
National parks were closed, federal grants were frozen and nearly half a million federal workers were furloughed Oct. 1 because Congress failed to reach a compromise on government spending. In New York’s 23rd congressional district, Americans place more blame on Republicans for the shutdown, with 42 percent approving of Republicans and 48 percent approving of Democrats in an October poll conducted by MoveOn.org.
Perhaps hoping to sway voters toward their respective sides, Ithaca and Tompkins County officials have drawn swords. Robertson, who is running to defeat Reed in the 2014 Congressional election, teamed up with Democratic leaders in a campaign video Wednesday to accuse Reed of stalling government action on resolving the shutdown.
“[Reed] is not merely a part of the gridlock; he is one of the authors of the gridlock,” said Carl Hayden, former chair of the New York State of Regents, in the video.
“People want their business done,” Hayden added, as the word “ideologue” in all caps was branded across a picture of Reed.
Robertson, in comparison, “is just instinctively bridge-building,” Hayden said, with the video showing a smiling Robertson conversing with constituents.
“She understands that you don’t get anything done by confrontation. You get things done by conversation and reasoned discussion,” Hayden added.
Reed fired back. It is the Democrat-controlled Senate that is sitting on all potential solutions, he said. Meanwhile, Congress faces a ticking clock: Wall Street analysts say the U.S. will default, plunging into economic catastrophe, if the country cannot agree to raise the debt ceiling by Oct. 17.
“Considering the Senate’s track record of not negotiating or even coming to the table, we have to be realistic and take into account the risks of default,” Reed said in a press release. “This country needs the President to be a leader and join the House in working on a path forward not just to open the government, but our long-term debt crisis.”
Reed added that he thinks both Democrats and President Barack Obama are sending an inappropriate message to the country’s youth, “who will end up bearing the brunt of our debt.”
The Republican-dominated House of Representatives has passed eight bills to fund services it deems essential, including that of the National Institutes of Health and assistance to low-income women and children.
“These bills remain in front of the Senate, where [Sen. Harry Reid (D-N.V.)] can decide to take them up at any time,” Reed said in the press release. “If the Senate believes we should fund these types of vital programs, it can choose to do so at any time. Regardless of Harry Reid and the President’s unwillingness to work with us, the House will continue to offer solutions that ensure vital services remain in place.”
Despite his defenses, if neither side can break the impasse, Reed may see support for him in the 23rd district slide in the coming days. Just 35 percent of voters said they approved of Reed in an Oct. 2 – 4 poll conducted by MoveOn.org. With two-thirds of Americans polled by CNN saying they think the shutdown has caused either a crisis or “major problems” in their lives, Congress’ public perception — already poor to begin with — has taken a significant hit.