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Begich: Government shutdown 'totally unnecessary'

Posted: October 1, 2013 - 3:37pm
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File
Alaska Sen. Mark Begich speaks during his annual speech to a joint session of the legislature last year. Begich said Tuesday it’s time to move on from calls to repeal the federal health care law and instead fix any problems and get on with the business of governing in Washington.

JUNEAU — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said Tuesday it’s time to move on from calls to repeal the federal health care law and instead fix any problems and get on with the business of governing in Washington.

The federal government was partially shut down after the House and Senate failed to agree on a plan for continued government funding.

The Senate rejected proposals passed by the Republican-led House that tacked on delays in implementing all or portions of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Begich, in an interview, called the shutdown “totally unnecessary,” and said he hoped calmer heads would prevail over the next 24 hours.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young, the Republican members of the state congressional delegation, also expressed concern about the shutdown.

Young, who voted with the majority in the House, said in a statement that he hoped the Senate would negotiate in good faith instead of tabling the House’s ideas along party lines.

Young, in an interview last week, said a government shutdown would hurt a lot of his constituents.

Asked on Tuesday why Young voted for a proposal he likely knew the Senate would reject, his spokesman, Michael Anderson, said the premise of the question was flawed “by suggesting that the House must concede to Senate intransigence.”

“However you have identified the problem; at this time, both sides are dug in,” Anderson said by email.

Murkowski took to the floor of the Senate on Monday night — before the shutdown — to repeat her call that Congress find a way to keep the government running. Murkowski made clear she does not support the health care law. She previously signed on to legislation to delay the mandate that individuals buy insurance.

“But do I believe that we should shut down the federal government at this point because we haven’t been able to shut down the Affordable Care Act? I think that we have a responsibility here,” she said in her floor speech. “We’ve got a responsibility to govern and we’re not doing that right now.”

Murkowski voted against tabling the House amendments to the spending proposal.

Republicans have seen Begich’s seat as key to GOP efforts to take back control of the Senate next year. Begich has repeatedly defended the health care law but said Tuesday he also has ideas for making the law better, including getting rid of a medical device tax and providing additional tax credits for small businesses to better access health care for employees.

He said members of Congress should work together to find solutions to identify problems with the law. But for some of the critics “it seems like it’s all or nothing with them,” he said.

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