What happened to Virginia’s hallmark of compromise?

Compromise has been, and still should be, a proud hallmark of our Commonwealth. Sadly, the government shutdown has shown that today’s Republican Party – led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor and [Republican gubernatorial nominee] Ken Cuccinelli – is completely out of step with that tradition.

For almost two weeks, the House majority and its Tea Party caucus have held hostage the American economy - and for what?

They refuse to accept that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. They had three bites at the apple. First, they tried to defeat the bill in Congress. They failed. Then, they tried to contest it before the Supreme Court. They failed. Finally, we had a presidential election and debated this very issue. They failed again. Each time, each challenge, the law was upheld.

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Can the law be improved? Yes, and I am eager to join my colleagues in working to refine it. But is it worth shutting down the government, forcing dedicated public servants to stay home from work without pay, denying veterans and their family benefits they’ve earned, and threatening Virginia’s economy? Absolutely not. 

Just this week, we learned that a clear majority of Virginians oppose the Republican plan to shut down the government over Obamacare. So one can understand now Leader Cantor’s maladroit attempts to rewrite history and claim that it was the president who refused to negotiate. Lest we forget, it was Cantor who walked away from budget negotiations in 2011 that could have led to a grand bargain.

Unfortunately, the House majority’s actions are what we’ve come to expect from hardline Republicans in both Richmond and Washington. It is either their way or the highway, and, sadly, their nominee for governor is no different. He even opposed the bipartisan transportation fix in Richmond. It’s an extreme approach that is bad for business, threatens federal investment that is critical to Virginia’s economy, and jeopardizes important programs like Head Start, that has created opportunity for our children to be competitive.

The Senate has passed a bill to reopen the government and if the Majority Leader would put it on the floor the government would be open tomorrow. It’s time to put an end to this hostage taking and put Virginians back to work. This new brand of Republican is not in the tradition of proud Virginians like John Warner or Linwood Holton. It’s time to get back to the way things have been done for years in Virginia.

Cantor should know better – as a Virginian.

Connolly has represented Virginia’s 11th Congressional District (Fairfax and Prince William copunties) since 2009. He sits on the Foreign Affairs and the Oversight and Government Reform committees.