Just hours before Congress approved a measure late Wednesday that ended the 16-day partial government shutdown, Gov. Steve Beshear lamented the effects of a long-term federal closure on millions of Kentuckians.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had brokered a deal by the time Beshear took to the podium around 2 p.m., but that didn’t temper his remarks.
The country could be in “the exact same spot” in about three months, Beshear said. The measure, signed by President Barack Obama early Thursday, funds the federal government through Jan. 15 and allows it to borrow normally through Feb. 7.
Beshear took a not-so-subtle swipe at McConnell, who is in the midst of a tough re-election battle against Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and primary opponent Matt Bevin.
“Hopefully we will have a deal today, and if we do, I suppose that we should be thankful that after about three months of being missing in action that the senator has surfaced here in the last couple of days and has been participating and is helping to work some deal out,” Beshear said.
“… I don’t think there’s any credit to go around if a deal’s struck today. There’s enough blame to go around, and I think the American people will remember where to put that blame.”
The partial federal shutdown had closed national parks across the U.S., including Mammoth Cave National Park. It also caused the furlough of 1,300 Kentucky National Guardsmen and benefits staff in the Veterans Administration regional office in Louisville as well as a layoff to 40 contract workers in the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training.
Beshear said the spending impasse delayed Medicaid certification for the new Glasgow State Nursing Facility.
“Everything is ready,” he said. “The patients and their families are ready for the move from the old facility. The problem is, we can’t get final license approval because federal offices have been closed.”
The state spends about $8 billion in federal money annually, but more than 85 percent of those funds aren’t affected by the federal shutdown. Protected programs include Medicaid, highway planning and construction and unemployment insurance benefits.
But had the shutdown continued through the end of October, Beshear said the state might have been forced to layoff employees paid primarily through federal funds. Programs that serve more than 1 million needy Kentuckians, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, would have run out of funding, he said.
“In a nation of plenty, in the wealthiest nation in the world, this should not happen,” Beshear said.