During a visit to Hilton Head Island on Monday, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford blamed the federal government shutdown on a failed congressional appropriations process, denying that a Republican effort to limit or block the health care law is the culprit.
"The current debate in Washington, at the end of the day, is not really about the Affordable Care Act," Sanford, R-Charleston, told the Hilton Head Island First Monday Republican Lunch Group. "It is about a fundamental breakdown that has occurred in this country on the way we spend money in Washington."
Congress failed to pass any appropriations bills this year, relying instead on continuing resolutions to fund the government temporarily, Sanford said.
"Which is a messy way of running government," Sanford said. "Right now, you have strong disagreement with the Senate at one level, the House at another and the White House at a whole different level. We have got to come to some level of compromise."
Asked what can be done to reach agreement on a spending plan, Sanford replied: "That's the $94 question. That's why we're in the quagmire that we're in."
Sanford dismissed the idea of Congress passing a stopgap spending bill to fund the government, with no strings attached to changing Obamacare or other conservative demands.
"We could pass a clean CR tomorrow and move on from this -- and everyone wants to move on, nobody wants this kind of ruckus in Washington -- but if we did that, think where we'd be," Sanford said. "Without resolution on the underlying budget, we'll be right back at this same spot one or two months from now."
Why wage this battle now?
"If not now, then when?" Sanford said. "When are we going to have this debate as a society on the sustainability of our spending track? ... This forces the conversation."
Sanford doesn't foresee an outcome in the week ahead and expects the shutdown will overlap with reaching a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. The U.S. has until Oct. 17 to raise its borrowing authority to prevent an unprecedented default.
Mount Pleasant resident Tom Fressilli, a retired civil-service worker who attended the meeting Monday, implored Sanford and other members of Congress to pass a stopgap bill and use that time "to do the tough work" needed to reach a budget compromise.
"I'm frustrated with Congress. We need to get our leaders to get things moving again -- reopen the government -- and do the hard work needed to hammer out a compromise," Fressilli said after the meeting. "We need them to do their job."
Sanford's office ends staff furloughs
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, announced Monday his office would end all staff furloughs beginning Tuesday.
"Now that the House has passed legislation to provide all federal employees with back pay and the president has announced his intention to support it, we think it is in the best interest of the taxpayer for us to end our staff furloughs," Sanford said in a news release. "I think common sense would dictate that now that it's clear everyone will be paid, that they should work -- anything less would amount to an extended taxpayer-subsidized vacation."