Owens weighs in on government shutdown

U.S. Rep. Bill Owens voted Wednesday in favor of a bill to reopen the federal government and extend the nation’s debt limit.

The Senate voted first and passed the measure 81 to 18. The House followed two hours later and approved the agreement with a final 285-144 vote.

“I think it should have ended 16 to 20 days ago rather than getting us here,” the Plattsburgh Democrat told reporters in a phone interview Wednesday night. “We all think it fits within the ballpark of reasonable – clearly not perfect. It does again kick the can down the road and invite this type of behavior in early January, and we need to get beyond that because the country needs stability.”

The debt ceiling increase is now in place until Feb. 7, when it will go up for a vote again.

“What we’re really talking about is the 2013 sequestration level of funding, which in and of itself represents a substantial number of cuts in programs like DOD and Medicare,” Owens said. “There are programs funded in this that we will take interest in. LIHEAP is one of them.”

Owens explained that the Low Income Home Energy Program is still being funded at 2012 levels; something he expects will negatively impact New Yorkers who rely on the program.

A change related to the Affordable Care Act was also included in the bill.

“We have a verification process that will go into effect relative to the ACA for credits that are available to people who apply for insurance on the exchanges,” Owens said. “Beyond that there are not any other major provisions in the bill. It’s relatively clean from our prospective.”

Owens said the last-minute agreement gives him hope that there will be compromise between Democrats and Republicans in the future.

“I’m hopeful that this in fact will be a breakthrough and we will see a farm bill introduced by the end of the year, which I think is critically important,” Owens said. “We may see some action on immigration reform; I’m again hopeful there. The primary focus from my perspective making sure we don’t have this kind of an issue on Jan. 15 or Feb. 7 again. The only way we can get there is by having a deal that addresses a lot of legitimate concerns about how we get the deficit under control and ultimately the debt.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.