Congressional Hispanic Caucus House members decry shutdown

Congressional Hispanic Caucus freshman representatives talk Tuesday about their first year in Congress. They expressed their concern about the government shutdown. From left, Democratic Reps. Tony Cárdenas, Calif.; Joaquin Castro, Texas; Joe Garcia, Fla., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, N.M. (Photo courtesy of Scripps Howard Foundation Wire.)

Congressional Hispanic Caucus freshman representatives talk Tuesday about their first year in Congress. They expressed their concern about the government shutdown. From left, Democratic Reps. Tony Cárdenas, Calif.; Joaquin Castro, Texas; Joe Garcia, Fla., and Michelle Lujan Grisham, N.M. (Photo courtesy of Scripps Howard Foundation Wire.)

Andres Rodriguez

Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

WASHINGTON – House Democratic members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said Tuesday they’re disappointed and frustrated that House Republicans repeatedly blocked a vote on a continuing resolution that could have avoided a government shutdown. 

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., spoke at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s public policy conference, along with the caucus’ freshmen class.The group spoke at a caucus luncheon at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center attended by hundreds of people.

Roybal-Allard said discussions over the budget and the Affordable Care Act should have been handled separately. She said that House Republicans’ tactics to make changes to the Affordable Care Act represent a kind of political terrorism.

“The solution is for these Tea Party extremists to stop trying to force through their agenda by holding the federal government hostage and blackmailing the president and the Democratic caucus to do what they want regardless of the consequences,” Roybal-Allard said. “There is no reason to shut down the government in order to address any issues or problem that they have with the Affordable Care Act. That’s an entirely different issue.”

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said that, although she’s disappointed, the Democratic caucus is pushing for a clean continuing resolution vote on the floor and hopes that Republicans  cooperate.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how long that takes, but every single day costs $150 million, every single day 800,000 federal employees are affected. It’s untenable. My hope is that it stops today,” Lujan Grisham, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus whip, said.  “The problem is it’s unpredictable.”

Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Texas, said he will donate his salary to charity during the shutdown, as a form of solidarity with federal government employees.

“I think it’s a travesty. I’ve never been so frustrated at the inability of people to come together,” Gallego said. “It is unconscionable to me that there are men and women out there who are going home to their families without pay and still have mortgages to meet and still have bills to pay, while the Congress is maintaining its salaries. I think that’s the ultimate arrogance.”

Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., said that Republicans have the ball in their court.

“The majority of the House would not have had this happen, by far. I think that most of the good men and women in the United States House would’ve found a solution here. Unfortunately, there’s a cabal returning to the Republican party and the House leadership, and until they break with it, we’re all a victim of their taking the American economy hostage.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said he’s hopeful the shutdown will end soon.

“The Congress needs to reconvene and restart the government. This is no way to run a government. We can’t be making decisions under a hostage situation,” he said.

Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, issued a statement saying the Republicans’ actions are reckless.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus lists no Republicans among its members.

“Today House Republicans have let the American people down. Rather than doing what is best for our economy and country, they have chosen partisan brinkmanship. The Affordable Care Act will help all Americans, but no community will benefit more than the Latino community,” he said.

Reach reporter Andrés Rodríguez at andres.rodriguez@shns.com or 202-326-9871.

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