OLYMPIA, Oct. 6.—Gov. Jay Inslee was back on familiar turf over the weekend, weighing in on the affairs of Congress as he denounced the Republicans in the U.S. House he says are wholly responsible for the current federal shutdown back in the other Washington.
“I can make the truth clear to people in this state,” Inslee said as he met with reporters Sunday afternoon in Seattle. “There is one man standing between America and a solution to this problem, and his name is Speaker John Boehner. He owes this country a vote, and when he gives us a vote it will end this madness.”
The current shutdown of the federal government, now a week in duration, has given Democrat Inslee a chance to roll up his sleeves and argue in a way familiar after his 16 years in Congress. The problem is all on one side, he says – the other one, naturally, the Republican side. But he did have a somwhat non-partisan message as well. In a matter of days Inslee says state is going start feeling some pretty harsh effects, from the aerospace industry to veterans’ services.
Inslee was joined at the news conference by veterans’ advocates and by a military contractor that has had to lay off workers because the procurement process has been shut down.
Calls Standoff ‘Deranged’
Washington state government is no more than an observer in the current drama playing out in the other Washington. A standoff that began with a Republican congressional proposal to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act now threatens the first-ever default on the national debt if a bill increasing the federal debt ceiling is not passed by Oct. 17. Meanwhile, nearly a million federal employees have been furloughed.
“We cannot allow this inexplicable hatred of giving people health insurance to lead us into an economic crisis, and that’s where we’re headed,” Inslee said. “Imagine if President Obama tomorrow announced that if the Republican party did not pass the closure of the gun-show loophole he was going to shut down the government and perhaps default on the federal debt. It would be deranged, and it’s deranged right now what’s going on in the House of Representatives.”
Inslee said Republicans ought to get over their opposition to Obamacare: Washington and other states opened their health-insurance exchanges last Tuesday and the big overhaul of the nation’s health insurance system has already begun. The Washington health benefits exchange, doing business as Washington Healthplanfinder, reported Friday that 180,000 people have visited its website and that 30,000 accounts have been created. It should be noted that the creation of an account does not mean that health insurance was actually purchased. Creation of an account means simply that people have enabled online shopping functions; the number of policies actually purchased has not yet been revealed.
“We don’t have to speculate about whether the congressional Republican tactics are bad for the economy,” he said. “Clearly they are. But I want to say this, as governor of a great state, the madness in Washington D.C. is already damaging Washington state, the real Washington. We are a state that is rebuilding our economy, and wouldn’t be rebuilding our economy in Washington state but for the narrow band of congressional Republicans who are holding our economy at ransom in Washington state.”
First Signs of Trouble
Inslee said the state has tried to fill in some of the gaps. But he said Boeing may shortly be forced to furlough employees for lack of staffing in military procurement offices, and the impact will be felt in its commercial operations as well because there are no Federal Aviation Administration inspectors to certify airliners for service. “They can’t do their business if the House of Representatives doesn’t do theirs.”
Veterans services and military contractors also are feeling the pinch. Federally funded employees at the Department of Employment Security who assist in veteran job placement are scheduled to be furloughed Tuesday. Casey Ingels of Lakewood-based Tactical Tailors said his firm has reduced its workforce from 155 employees to 56 because procurement officers already are off the clock. “Contract officers are not available to take delivery of equipment or take phone calls,” he said. “We still have a war going on in Afghanistan. We owe these soldiers and sailors the best gear possible. We can’t build it and we can’t get it to them. What is happening right now is unconscionable and we need action and leadership to make sure that our downrange soldiers are supported.”