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Letter to the Senate on the Measure to End Shutdown and Raise the Debt Ceiling

October 16, 2013

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, we wish to offer our views on the bi-partisan measure to end the government shutdown and temporarily lift the debt ceiling.  With the government shutdown now entering its third week, and the nation just one day away from breaching the debt ceiling, we urge you to vote YES on the bi-partisan agreement to avert further unnecessary damage to families and the economy. Votes associated with this issue may be scored in NEA's Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress.

The federal government shutdown has already had deep, painful impacts on some of the most vulnerable among us, and defaulting on the nation’s debt would reverberate across our economy affecting households and businesses through higher interest rates, investors fleeing the U.S. market and worldwide economic uncertainty.

It is long past time for the political brinksmanship to end. A truly bi-partisan bill has always been the only way to resolve the current impasse.

While a long-term lifting of the debt ceiling would likely provide greater economic certainty, the proposal to raise it until February 2014 provides at least a step back from the brink.

Similarly, the short-term continuing resolution provides another opportunity for Congress to get it right in a final FY14 funding bill and replace the damaging sequester level cuts. Congress needs to reverse course from the austerity approach that included slashing education across-the-board by 5 percent this year—the equivalent of cutting nearly all education programs and Head Start by roughly $3 billion. The level of cuts imposed by sequestration have already taken federal funding back to pre-2004 levels while our nation’s schools are serving nearly 6 million more students since that time. To date, a disproportionate share of sequester cuts have impacted higher-poverty communities and students most in need.

The move, at last, toward a budget conference committee presents the chance for Congress to agree on a reasonable plan to replace the sequester, including by raising revenue through closing costly corporate tax loopholes.

Congress must do better in the coming weeks and months, but today’s agreement at least avoids further unnecessary harm to families and the economy. It is past time to end the political games with our nation’s economy and move forward in a truly bipartisan fashion to re-open the government and prevent a breach of the debt ceiling. We urge you to vote YES.

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations