Residents wary of renewed budget impasse

MARIETTA – With less than three months until the compromise agreement that reopened the federal government from a 16-day partial shutdown runs out, some area residents are wondering whether the nation will see a repeat in the not-too-distant future.

Parkersburg resident Virginia Killian, 68, said she’s a loyal Democrat but she stopped short of pointing the finger at Republicans alone. She blames a lack of civility in politics.

“It’s almost an indictment of how our system is set up that this impasse can happen,” she said. “When people can’t talk to each other, there’s no way to compromise.”

Vienna resident Jon Benedetti is a volunteer at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which was shuttered for the duration of the shutdown. He said he’s “unimpressed” with Congress and the White House and has seen nothing in the week-and-a-half since the deal was reached to suggest things will be any different a few months from now.

“I think it’s sort of ridiculous that each side, the Republicans or the Democrats both, just want to point fingers,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like either side wants to do what’s necessary to reduce the deficit. … They want to get re-elected. That’s more important to them than anything.”

Devola resident Stephanie Davis, 59, was optimistic.

“I hope they can get it together by then, but I have my concerns,” she said.

The deal reached on Oct. 16 funds the federal government through Jan. 15 and raises the Treasury Department’s borrowing limit enough to last several weeks beyond that. It also directs House and Senate lawmakers to reach a deal to address the nation’s budget by Dec. 13.

Negotiators are scheduled to start meeting this week, but many Republicans refuse to consider tax increases beyond the 10-year, $600 billion-plus increase on higher earners passed in January, while Democrats won’t agree to cuts in programs like Medicare without additional taxes, the Associated Press reports.

“I think they’re stubborn,” said Amy Grosklos, 36, of Marietta. “I don’t think they’ll reach anything by then.”

Despite the continuing impasse, Marietta resident Anthony Touschner, 69, said he expects there to be an agreement before the new deadline.

“I think there will be for two reasons: one, Democrats have already conceded the budget cap to what the Republicans wanted (in the 2011 sequester), and two, Sen. (Mitch) McConnell and the Senate Republicans aren’t going to allow it because it’s just too damaging,” he said.

National polls show many Americans blaming the GOP for the shutdown. Touschner is among them, attributing the situation to “a Republican caucus gone crazy.

“There was no chance they’d ever repeal Obamacare, there’s no proof that it’s a bad thing,” he said. “And yet they just persisted to please their most extreme constituents.”

But the only thing Marietta residents Bob and Alicia Gomola blame the Republicans for is giving up too easily on demands to defund or alter provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

“They should’ve fought a lot harder, because Obamacare is a country-killer,”said Bob Gomola, 64, calling the law “unsustainable.”

However, he still described the shutdown as “a big political drama” that “didn’t have to happen,” albeit with Obama and the Democrats as the culprits.

Gomola also opposes raising the debt ceiling, calling the country’s nearly $17 trillion debt damaging to future generations.

Some people interviewed Sunday said the shutdown and what happens going forward will affect how they vote in 2014 and beyond.

“I look for a little compromise myself,” said James Warne, 67, of Marietta. “Somebody’s got to give somewhere.”