Guest commentary: Republicans Must Come to the Table, Otherwise We All Lose

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Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick: "The only way to overcome the division is for Republicans to finally recognize and call out the MAGA cause for what it is: a movement entrenched in white supremacy, in entitlement, and in loyalty to one man, rather than country."

Compromise is key to the work we do in Congress. Every year, we have the immense responsibility of creating, negotiating, and passing the annual federal budget. The deadline to keep the government running is upon us, yet Republicans refuse to complete negotiations for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. Instead, they state their preference for a year-long Continuing Resolution, a “CR.” 

House Democrats worked to pass our budget over the summer, and our Senate counterparts also published a strong proposal. When Republicans refuse to join us at the negotiating table, they blatantly ignore the needs and wellbeing of their constituents. The stakes of not passing a federal budget are too high for these reprehensible political games. 

I take my responsibility as Arizona’s appropriator seriously and I spend countless hours working with our community to ensure Arizonans’ priorities are included in the budget.

Education

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for serious investments in our education infrastructure.

Arizonans understand the devastating consequences Republican education policies have had on our education system at the state level—we cannot allow failed ideas and inaction to prevent critical investments in our students.

Our budget includes significant investments in Title I schools, ensuring all students have access to quality education, regardless of zip code. We include funding increases for special education, early childhood development, childcare for low-income families, and Tribal Colleges and Universities.

A CR will halt the necessary investments needed to make our education system competitive again on a global stage.

Children

In one of the world’s most prosperous nations, no child should go hungry. At the pandemic’s start, our decades-long progress in combating food insecurity was wiped away in months. Over six million children lived in food-insecure households, and nearly 15% of households with children had trouble finding enough food to meet everyone’s needs. Our budget expands access to fresh produce to 6.4 million people through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Furthermore, it ensures 45 million eligible people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program get the benefits they need and guarantees that SNAP will stay solvent.

National Defense, Military Families, and Veterans

If we maintain a year-long CR, as Republicans hope to do, we will freeze programs at last year’s funding levels, and the Department of Defense (DoD) will be unable to shift funding towards defense and national security priorities that have since changed. 

An overdue pay raise for our troops and civilian personnel are set to take effect on January 1, 2022.  Our troops and civilian personnel rightfully deserve this pay raise. If we maintain a CR, the DoD will likely need to lay off personnel to pay for the raise.

Our budget contains $845 million for Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities that make our borders safe; these programs will not be funded at this level under a CR.

Our budget adds $562.5 million for cancer research directly affecting servicemembers and their families. This lifesaving cancer research into breast, ovarian, prostate, lung, kidney, and pancreatic cancers impacts every family in America. This research is in jeopardy if we settle with a CR.

Our budget includes total funding for the South Wilmot gate at Davis-Monthan. The city of Tucson and Pima County have invested significantly in expanding roadways in anticipation of this funding. A delay in federal funding continues safety concerns at the base and impacts surrounding traffic.

Our budget significantly invests in remediation and clean-up efforts of the toxic chemical PFAS, another major priority for the city of Tucson and Arizona. This funding will not be realized in a CR.

Our budget provides a record $97.6 billion for Veterans’ medical care and enhances the VA’s ability to reach homeless veterans with $2.2 billion for homeless assistance programs. A CR prevents us from increasing veteran care.

Housing

Southern Arizonans know first-hand how fast the cost of living has risen in the last decade. Our budget includes increases to Homelessness Assistance Grants and tenant-based Section 8 vouchers to combat homelessness. We also include funds to construct, maintain and improve homes for low-income families.

Getting Arizonans Back to Work

One of the top issues I hear from community members is the simultaneous need for good-paying jobs and the staffing shortages facing many industries, especially healthcare facilities.

Our budget includes investments in job training, apprentice programs, and worker protection programs.

A CR will prevent these programs and others from helping Arizonans get back on their feet. 

I also secured direct funding for specific projects in Southern Arizona. These Community Projects are entirely at risk without a final budget deal.

I included funds for a flood control project in the City of Douglas, which will bring a significant portion of the Douglas population out of the floodplain, improving the livelihood of families and businesses in our border communities. 

I included funds for two of our community health centers—one in Tucson and one in Bisbee—to expand their capabilities, both to treat patients and train rural health care workers. 

I included funds to improve 8 affordable housing units in Tucson, along with funds to fully furnish Pima Community College’s Flexible Industry Training Lab—which will focus on training our high-skilled manufacturing workforce of the future. 

These projects benefit all of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, and none will see funding if Republicans don’t come to the table and negotiate a final budget deal. We cannot afford to see these opportunities slip away. 

President Biden once said, “show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value.” Our budget prioritizes working families, veterans and advances the U.S. on a global scale.

Compromise has always been crucial to our work in Congress. We have done this before, and we must do it again. Republicans must come to the table and negotiate this budget in good faith—we will all benefit from it. My colleagues and I stand ready to get this budget across the finish line. The question is, where are the Republicans? 

Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick represents Arizona’s Second Congressional District.

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