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Close to Home: Tea party holding Capitol hostage

Today, a needless and reckless government shutdown continues. There is no reason for us to be in this situation. Our government is closed because 40 or so radical tea party Republicans refuse to vote for any funding bill that doesn't delay or defund the Affordable Care Act.

This is a fight they've lost nearly 50 times in Congress, in a national election and in the U.S. Supreme Court. Keeping the government shut down because Democrats want to make sure people can buy affordable health insurance is a thoughtless disregard for responsible governance and the people we serve.

Democrats have compromised. I agreed to support a funding measure that included $72 billion in annualized across-the-board spending cuts to keep the government open. The Senate passed this legislation multiple times before the government closed. But this wasn't enough for the tea party wing of the House majority — for them to vote for any measure the Affordable Care Act had to be defunded or delayed.

Their refusal to compromise is hurting our economy and country. It's putting 800,000 federal employees out of work and delaying paychecks for two million more, cutting off food-safety operations and infectious disease surveillance, stopping important medical research, halting the disbursement of new small business loans and costing the taxpayers $150 million a day.

Now the House majority is trying to pass piecemeal funding measures to fund things like our national parks and the Department of Veterans Affairs. These bills are nothing more than cynical political ploys designed to lessen the outrage the House majority is facing for shutting down the government.

By passing these piecemeal measures, the House majority is choosing which people the government works for and which people it ignores. That's not the way government works. It's irresponsible. And while it might be good for politics, it's terrible for our country.

The right thing to do for our nation would be to pass the Senate's compromise government funding legislation that protects health care reform and reduces spending. I stand ready to support such a bill. Democrats stand ready to support such a bill. And many responsible members of the Republican Party in the House stand ready to pass such a bill. If it was put on the floor of the House today, it would be passed and our government would be open tomorrow.

It's important for everyone in our nation that the institution of representative government works. Right now, this important institution is being held hostage by a small fraction of extremists in the House majority who are obsessed with sabotaging health care reform.

It's time for the House majority to put the interests of our nation ahead of the interest of the tea party, pass the Senate's compromise bill and reopen our government.

<i>Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, represents the 5th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. </i>


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