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Press Release: NETWORK Statement on Government Shutdown

FOR RELEASE: October 2, 2013                                                                           

CONTACT: Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 x224,

Washington DC: NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, deplores the current inability of Congress to govern responsibly and for the common good. They have turned democracy on its head, with one extreme faction of one party in the House of Representatives able to subvert the will of the people and even most of the legislators.

This dereliction of duty has forced a government shutdown with the potential to do great economic harm to our country.

And why has this happened? Because this small faction is determined to attack and dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which is now the law of the land.

So what does that mean? It means that these legislators want hardworking mail clerks in numerous government mailrooms to go without pay for some indeterminate period of time. Many of these mail clerks have disabilities and depend on their paychecks. More than that, they have “preexisting conditions” so this same group of legislators wants to reverse the guarantee that they can’t be denied health coverage in the future. This is beyond reprehensible.

These legislators are holding these mail clerks and the entire nation hostage as they continue their temper tantrum because the Affordable Care Act is still law. They, of course, have healthcare, paid for by all of us through our tax dollars. They seem not to care that millions of those for whom they are supposed to work are not assured of getting care in the event of illness or accident – and dare not to even dream of a routine medical assessment.

Not only is the shutdown of the government a travesty, but they are attempting piecemeal actions to restore some funding, allowing parts of the government to continue functioning. As they did in 2011, they are pandering mostly to the desires of the rich and powerful. They ignore those who are truly suffering:

  • Federal government contract employees working for wages below the poverty level (food service, cleaning services and others) will have NO income during the shutdown. And, they will not receive pay retroactively. They will have difficulty paying their rent, feeding their families and having money for transportation needs.
  • Critical parts of the social safety net (already ripped due to sequestration cuts) are being further shredded as federal funds to states for Head Start stop. States that have some “left-over” money will continue programs until that dries up. Just this week, an additional 16,000 children lost access to Head Start, denying education and meals to the neediest children in our communities.
  • Federal grants to states for WIC (nutritional assistance for pregnant women and infants) have stopped. As the reserves of money at the state level shrivel, there will be no WIC assistance available. Nutritional supplements to seniors through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and commodities foods to food banks have stopped.
  • Workers who study and track disease outbreaks have been sent home from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are turning critically ill patients away from this hospital of last resort.

NETWORK calls for the House and Senate to agree on a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) with no policy add-ons, no attack on the Affordable Care Act (or any parts of it), and to do it immediately.

Focus on the inconvenience of tourists speaks loudly to the distorted values of many Members of Congress.  They continue to receive healthcare, they are able to feed themselves and their families, and they are not in danger of losing their homes or being evicted from an apartment. This past Sunday, the Catholic Scriptures spoke to those who are comfortable and don’t hold care for the less fortunate as the highest priority. Members of Congress should take heed.