Congress is gone for the weekend even though there’s no deal to avoid defaulting on the national debt.
It also left without extending a bill for the Federal Aviation Administration, causing a partial shutdown of the FAA Friday night. Flights will still go and air traffic controllers will be on the job, but thousands of other FAA employees will be furloughed, including 79 in Alaska. The Department of Transportation says Alaska could lose nearly $70 million in construction funding. And according to the FAA, $7 million of that is supposed to go to Alaska right away to places like Juneau, Anchorage, Kenai and Barrow, and now is halted, but won’t until the FAA bill is approved.
And there’s just 11 days until the U.S. faces default, and running out of money to pay its bills. White House officials, Alaska’s Senators, and financial experts have all warned that could be fiscally catastrophic.
Despite numerous proposals in play and an initial demand by Congressional leaders to stay in Washington and work, there’s no deal on deck, and members who aren’t the top negotiators are fleeing 100 degree D.C.
Both of Alaska’s Senators are on their way home since there’s nothing to vote on. Senator Lisa Murkowski says that doesn’t mean this isn’t crunch time.
“Wall Street has gotten used to us crying wolf on this, and don’t believe we could actually not raise the debt ceiling. I think they’re starting to get a little bit more concerned. As they see that we don’t have a clearly defined path forward at this moment less than two weeks from August 2. So I think what you are feeling here is this heightened anxiety.”
Despite being from different parties, Murkowski and Senator Mark Begich are united in their call for action on the debt ceiling. And both say they’re willing to come to the table and compromise. But Begich says the hang-up is in the House of Representatives, where conservative Republicans are uninterested in any deal that includes raising revenue. And some Tea Party members say fear about defaulting on the debt is over-blown.
“If thse guys in the House haven’t figured it out, they’d better get on the stick. Because they’re going to drive this economy and country into the hole because of their politicizing this issue. I think the Senate has shown this week, Democrats and Republicans through the Gang of Six and McConnell Reid piece, that we’re moving. And the House is becoming more and more, especially Boehner and his team, is becoming more and more the problem here.”
The focus in Washington may be on the House, but Alaska’s sole Representative Don Young continues to be away Friday in Alaska. He’s been attending a fishing trip that raises money for a charity named after his late wife. Young told Valdez radio station KCHU this week that he’s not interested in the deals being crafted over in the Senate.
“The House doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for the Senate side. I know the House side is they’re insisting on a certain amount of cuts, an equal amount to raising the debt limit. I don’t know where that’s going to go. Because if they don’t get that kind of a deal, I don’t think we’ve got the votes for it, I’ll be right up front with you.”
Young told KCHU that he will be back in Washington next week to vote on any debt ceiling deals that do come together. On Monday, when Congress resumes, there will be just eight days before the nation risks defaulting.