Last week, Congress passed a bi-partisan resolution to maintain the federal government’s normal level of funding while broader budget negotiations continue. Failure to pass that resolution would have led to a massive government shutdown that would have severely threatened local families and young children. Our representative, Pete Aguilar, voted against the resolution, choosing to side with his party’s leadership over the children and families that he is supposed to be protecting.
What’s most shocking about his vote is that included in the resolution was funding for programs we desperately need here in San Bernardino County and the entire state of California. One such allocation is a provision to maintain the Children’s Health Insurance Program or “CHIP.” Halting CHIP funding would have a catastrophic effect on California. Currently, one quarter of all CHIP enrollees are from California, and half of all children in the Inland Empire are on CHIP. Without further funding, trips to the emergency room and doctors’ appointments, already too expensive as it is, would reach astronomical prices for the families who rely on CHIP for affordable healthcare.
Funding for emergency services through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was also protected by the resolution. At a time when wildfires continue to ravage Southern California, including the Little Mountain Fire here in San Bernardino, FEMA resources are crucial for first responders and wildfire victims. Governor Brown and President Trump both agree that these catastrophic fires warrant significant federal resources, yet Rep. Aguilar voted to shut the government down rather than open up disaster relief funding.
Those in power have a moral responsibility to protect the powerless, but Aguilar has failed this most fundamental of duties by voting against funding for low-income children and wildfire victims. He could have joined the 14 Democrats in the House and 38 Democrats in the Senate who defied their party’s leadership by casting a “yes” vote on this crucial resolution. Instead, he chose to vote along party lines as part of a political stunt led by his leadership.
When he first ran for office, Aguilar claimed to be a moderate who was interested in bi-partisan solutions—but when is shutting down the government ever a good solution? As an economist, I know that predictable, steady government is crucial for jobs growth, healthy communities, and economic prosperity. Even a very short shutdown can cause lasting damage—especially when it comes to the health of low-income children and the victims of these devastating wildfires.