Everyone’s been on the edge of their seats regarding Washington politics of late, with the shutdown entering its third week and the debt ceiling like some image out of Lewis Carroll. Last winter’s fiscal cliff seems like child’s play in comparison to the latest partisan battles.
Where does our region’s congressman, Chris Gibson of Columbia County, stand with what’s happening? And what about his recently declared challenger for the 2014 battle for New York’s 19th Congressional District, Sean Eldridge of Shokan?
“This should never have happened,” the second-term GOP representative from Kinderhook said by phone on Columbus Day. “The CR [Continuing Resolution] that we had before us only hours before the government closed was a very reasonable bill that should have been enacted. Even nine Democrats voted along with us on this, including my New York congressional colleagues Dan Maffei and Sean Patrick Maloney.”
Gibson was referring to a September 30 measure that struggled through the House of Representatives with elements that would strip the Affordable Care Act of subsidies and expand a one-year moratorium on tax penalties for businesses to everyone involved. He mainly blamed the president and Senate majority leader Harry Reid for the stalemate, shutdown, and debt-ceiling brinksmanship.
The former career Army officer and former West Point instructor talked of his role as a member of the No Labels bipartisan group of senators and congressmen headed by Joe Manchin and Jon Huntsman, and including congresspersons Maffei, Maloney and Bill Owens amongst its membership. All have pledged to restore moderation to the nation’s governance.
Among No Labels’ recent contributions to the discussion in D.C. have been the reach for a Senate proposal by senators Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), to push the CR and debt-ceiling deadlines forward several months with a delay on the medical-device-tax provision of the ACA and several other items.
“That was an outgrowth of what we were working on at No Labels, and we’re continuing to push it,” Gibson said. The group is now meeting daily. “I don’t see how Harry Reid or the president can allow us to default when they have solutions before them …. I’ve taught history at West Point and you think back to all that happened in 1929 and it’s not the speaker of the house whose name one remembers but that of Herbert Hoover, the president.”
Sean Eldridge, speaking in his new campaign offices in Kingston, spoke quickly and with self-assurance. He had announced his candidacy as a Democratic challenger to Gibson only weeks earlier.
“This is all a shining example of how dysfunctional we’ve become. There are so many common-sense things we could be working on, from infrastructure to the training of our workers for a changing economy, and instead we’re having this governmental shutdown,” said the 27-year-old founder of a Hudson Valley venture capital fund and a major contributor to the new Advanced Manufacturing Center pioneering 3D imaging work at SUNY New Paltz. “It’s unnecessary. It’s irresponsible. It’s harming our economy, and it’s harming families in this area. I think people are very frustrated. We want our government to be getting to work for us and not to be focused on these partisan battles that aren’t helping anyone.”