Patrick embarrassed by government shutdown
Hopes God forgives Republicans, but not voters
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
A sharp-tongued Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday said he was “embarrassed” by having to explain the government shutdown to a group of visiting students from London this week, and hopes voters punish Republicans at the polls next year.
“I think Tea Party Republicans are playing a big game with little people and I hope God forgives them for that, but I hope voters won’t,” Patrick told reporters after celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
The governor said his administration is still trying to decipher the full impact of the shutdown in Massachusetts, which has closed national parks and museums, threatened the processing of student and small businesses loans, and could impact the delivery of low-income home heating assistance as the mercury begins to drops.
Patrick said his administration would soon have to “make some decisions” about the more than 4,000 state workers paid fully or partially with federal grants, and his office said they anticipate having more details later in the day after the governor attends a meeting on the issue.
“The people who have engineered this are the small number of Tea Party, hard-right Republicans in the House caucus and they want this. They want the government to be shut down. They don’t, in many respects, fundamentally believe in the role of government. If they are the impediment to the normal function of the federal government and supply of services to the American people, it’s very hard to see how this impasse gets broken,” Patrick said.
President Barack Obama summoned Democrat and Republican leaders to the White House for a meeting on the shutdown later Wednesday afternoon, but few have hopes for a quick resolution with both sides entrenched in their positions and heated rhetoric reaching a boiling point.
Asked whether Democrats should a cut a deal with House Republicans, Patrick responded quickly: “No. There are not two sides to blame in Washington. You can’t cut a deal over something that’s been resolved.”
Patrick said he met on Tuesday with a group visiting from the London Business School, and the conversation turned to the government shutdown and continuing political gridlock in the capital.
“Frankly, to me, it was embarrassing. We’re a first world country and the notion that a small number of people in the Republican caucus in the House can shut down the functioning of government in a totally irresponsible way over an issue that has been resolved is unacceptable,” Patrick said.
Despite the ideological difference between the parties over Obamacare, the shutdown has not slowed the implementation of the law with state-based insurance exchanges opening around the country on Tuesday for individuals to begin enrolling in health plans.The governor said the rollout of the new online exchange has gone “pretty smoothly” to date, and the volume of traffic to the site has been high but “nothing compared to other states that haven’t had the experience we’ve had.”
Though most Massachusetts residents already have health insurance, a little over 150,000 individuals with subsidized coverage through the Commonwealth Care program will have to reenroll before January in plans that conform to the Affordable Care Act standards. Another 100,000 individuals will be shifted from subsidized coverage into the state’s Medicaid program known as MassHealth, while 45,000 uninsured people will become eligible for MassHealth for the first time. “There are going to be hiccups and as long as people are patient, we have many months to get people signed up. As long as people are patient, we’re certainly committed to smoothing it out,” Patrick said.