Maryland senator tells federal employees Congress will come up with a budget deal before December deadline.
The government isn’t likely to shut down in December when the latest short-term funding measure expires, a Democratic senator told federal employees on Monday.
“I think by Dec. 11, we will either have a budget agreement, or we’ll have another continuing resolution,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told federal workers during a town hall Monday morning at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. Cardin, who called a CR “a failure,” said the government needs an omnibus budget agreement “at a minimum” for the current fiscal year that eliminates sequestration and allows for growth.
“We have a better than 50-50 shot of getting that by Dec. 11. I think there are reasonable people currently negotiating,” he said.
On Monday, several news outlets reported that the White House and lawmakers are close to a deal that includes raising the debt ceiling and crafting a two-year budget agreement. According to The Hill, officials hope to announce something as early as Monday night.
The deadline to increase the $18.1 trillion debt limit is Nov. 3; the current stopgap funding measure keeping the government open expires on Dec. 11.
“A shutdown is dumb,” Cardin told the crowd. “It’s costly, counterproductive, [and] makes no sense.” Cardin represents a state with a large federal presence, and often holds town hall events with government employees at federal agencies in Maryland.
“I don’t mind people who don’t believe in government,” the senator said. “But then they get elected to public office and they want to prove the government doesn’t work. That’s what I object to.”
Cardin said the architects of the last two shutdowns miscalculated. “They thought by closing the government, the public would rally behind them, saying ‘We didn’t miss you.’ It didn’t work. Just the opposite. There was a hard political cost to pay for those who were responsible.”
In addition to gaming the odds of another government shutdown, the Maryland senator took questions from federal workers on several issues, including the budget, how to best educate members of Congress about science, and the prospects for a bill that would increase the public transit subsidy, which many federal employees rely on to commute to work.
Cardin is a co-sponsor of the 2015 Commuter Benefits Equity Act, which would restore parity between the parking and transit pre-tax benefit by setting the monthly caps at $250 for both through 2016 (and applying that change retroactively to Jan. 1, 2015). Right now, the benefit for public transit is $130 per month, while the parking subsidy is $250 per month.
“We’re hoping that that bill will be acted on before the end of this year,” Cardin told the NIST crowd. “It is a much higher subsidy that taxpayers are giving to those who use their cars than those who use transit. We’ve got to invest more in public transit, and part of that is rewarding those who use public transit in a fair way, as we do for those who have a car.”