PAULS VALLEY, Oklahoma — Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) gave a powerful rebuke to those in his party calling for a government shutdown at a town hall on Friday, defending the vital role that public employees play in society.
Even in a room full of conservative constituents who wanted the congressman to defund Obamacare at all costs in the upcoming funding fight, including shutting down the government, Cole stood firm. After one constituent argued that the American public would support a shutdown, Cole gave a stirring defense of the importance of government across society, from lives saved by the National Weather Center’s tornado warnings to the tens of thousands of families in his district alone who rely on government paychecks to pay the bills. “Anytime you hurt millions of people, and inconvenience tens of millions more, I don’t think you usually achieve your end,” Cole said. “I think they wonder why you did that to them.”
CONSTITUENT: If you fund the government with everything except [Obamacare], Democrats are going to yell and scream all that, “the Republicans are shutting the government down!” […] You can take it to the American people, they will support it.
COLE: […] We’ll see what happens in September when we get back, but my instinct is, you won’t win that fight. It won’t be popular. Never polls popular. What do you tell the people you’re inconveniencing? Most of the people that argue this point are not thinking, why would you shut down the National Weather Center that just saved a whole lot of lives in central Oklahoma by giving us 16 minutes of warning instead of two. Why would you put 15,000 families — that’s families — out of work at Tinker Air Force Base. There are four million important national defense workers. Why would you go to Sulphur, where there are guys in their 80s and 90s who gave this country everything they possibly had in its darkest moment, and say, “sorry, there’s not going to be anybody here showing up to fix your meals or look after you or do the commitments we made.” I don’t think it’s smart politics. Anytime you hurt millions of people, and inconvenience tens of millions more, I don’t think you usually achieve your end. I think they wonder why you did that to them.
But his logic for opposing the shutdown could just as well apply to the budget cuts known as sequestration, which have impacted some of the same groups he names as being hurt by a shutdown. Meals on Wheels programs have been slashed. Defense Department workers face furlough days. And as the Center for American Progress’ map of sequestration impacts shows, the cuts are hurting and inconveniencing people all around the country.