The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) is appalled by Members of Congress who have taken extreme measures and reneged on an agreement reached in June to raise the debt ceiling in return for spending caps. They are escalating political gamesmanship to even higher levels, much to the dismay of the American people who expect their duly elected members of Congress to lead in times of crisis.
Amidst the political point scoring and increasing rancor of those disconnected from the realities of everyday Americans, the NCC hears the cries of the millions of families who are already suffering from a lack of basic human needs and would be further harmed by a government shutdown. We lament along with those who are suffering and call on Congress to pass legislation to keep the government open after current funding expires on September 30.
NCC’s Governing Board Chair Bishop Teresa Snorton states that, “We must urge Congress now to prioritize passing legislation that ensures uninterrupted government functioning. Otherwise, the country fails to provide essential services to citizens, and weakens our nation’s stability.”
The effects of a government shutdown are far-reaching—preventing families living in poverty, including many military families, from accessing critical programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) which provides food and nutrition for mothers and young children, and Head Start, an early learning and development program that supports children from birth to 5 years old. A shutdown would also impact workers who are deemed “essential”— active-duty military personnel, air traffic controllers, and TSA agents, for example—who would be forced to work without pay. The added stress on these families threatens public safety by making recruiting and retention of staff more difficult and exacerbating staffing shortages.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of government workers—including those in cafeterias, clerical staff, civilian Pentagon staff, and training staff—will be furloughed. These workers form the backbone of our government, ensuring service delivery and supporting Members of Congress, the Judiciary, and the White House. Turning their backs on these people is a betrayal that gnaws at the commitment to public service of the American people.
“We call on Congress to pass adequate funding for the U.S. Government to function effectively. Without proper funding, critical services may be understaffed or unable to meet growing demands, leading to a decline in public welfare, public safety, and societal well-being. We cannot afford to play the “my way or the highway” games with the lives and livelihood of millions of Americans.” said Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, NCC President and General Secretary.
NCC urges people of faith to take a stand and voice their concerns by calling their elected representatives and writing letters of support for a clean Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government open until a budget can be negotiated and passed. Those in Congress who have embraced extremist viewpoints and abandoned the bipartisan budget agreement to keep the government funded leaving millions of Americans—especially the most vulnerable in our society—at risk of becoming destitute cannot go unchecked.
This is an opportunity for us to strive together to make a difference and emphasize the importance of effective legislative action now for the betterment of our nation. With effective governance, we can safeguard against the negative consequences of political gridlock and provide a more secure future for all Americans.