Rep. Owens gives bleak outlook for Congress

PAUL SMITHS – U.S. Rep. Bill Owens says he has little hope that Congress will resolve its acrimonious gridlock anytime soon.

“It’s unlikely we will have a federal budget this year again,” the Plattsburgh Democrat said Thursday at Paul Smith’s College, in answer to questions about federal student aid funding. “It’s unlikely that we will pass any of the appropriations bills, and we’ll wind up with a continuing resolution again on or about October 1st.

“That is a not good process. It’s not something that gives stability or clarity to people about where we’re going, and it’s a significant issue that is not getting resolved – simply not getting resolved.”

Congress hasn’t passed a budget in four years, each of which saw a trillion-plus-dollar deficit. Owens, in his three-and-a-half years in the House, has done much to promote bipartisan compromise, but he sounded less optimistic than usual Thursday.

Owens said he thinks “there’s a better than 50 percent chance the government shuts down for some period of time,” although he predicted such a shutdown would be short – “a couple of days, maybe a week. I don’t think it would be a month-long shutdown.”

Rebekah Kruppenbacher, a Paul Smith’s student from the Saratoga Springs area, responded to the congressman that “who this is really going to affect is all of us. A lot of people making decisions might not necessarily be there to see the outcome of all this.”

Owens agreed that “for most of the people in Congress, they will not see the long-term consequence. … But the struggle continues to be between the desire to reduce federal spending and the idea of how you reduce federal spending.”

“So what is being done to hold them accountable for the next time that they have to make a decision?” Kruppenbacher asked.

“Well, the only accountability really is the ballot box,” Owens said, “and right now in the United States, there are about 50 to 75 toss-up seats. I happen to hold one of those – meaning the seat could go Democrat or Republican. The rest of the seats are either red or blue, and you may change the member of Congress, but you’re not going to change the red or blue status of the seat.

“So that means that these 75 people are, if you will, they are the linchpin of the process. Those folks, by their nature of being in a swing seat, are more likely, in my view, to be paying attention to the issues. But there aren’t enough people who are in that position. You’d need to push that out to be 150 seats, 200 seats, before you’d see a significant change in how Congress operates.”