Bakersfield voters frustrated with Congress over federal budget delay

Bakersfield voters frustrated with Congress over federal budget delay »Play Video
This Oct. 15, 2013, photo, shows a view of the U.S. Capitol building at dusk in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - As lawmakers finally reopen the federal government, local voters sound pretty frustrated over the recent delay. Kern County folks voiced different views on who's to blame Wednesday. While the plan would avert a government default, other worry about raising the debt ceiling.

On Wednesday night, Congress approved a measure hatched by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

"Thank God it's over, and please people -- have some common sense," Richard Monje said Wednesday afternoon. "Disagree, but don't put all of our finances at risk."

Others voiced similar frustration with the partial government shutdown that dragged on for 16 days, and the impending government default if the debt ceiling wasn't raised.

"They're supposed to be helping us out and not to punish us and close everything down," Candice Taylor complained. "It's stupid."

And Ernesto Portillo said he's been frustrated watching the lawmakers' behavior. "It's just hard for them to come to decisions, because they're both, honestly like kids -- like teenagers like me, bickering back and forth."

And others complain the inaction by Congress has such negative consequences. "I think it's an unfortunate political ploy that's not really hurting anybody but citizens," Ben Geissel said. "I really don't understand the shutdown, especially of the national parks."

Closure of the national parks really irked a number of local folks.

Reaction was mixed when it comes to the question of who's really to blame.

"If the Democrats had a plan, they'd get together with the Republicans," Glenn Walsh said. "To be honest, it's both parties' fault," Ernesto Portillo countered.

Richard Monje sees a different picture. "You can blame the tea party," he said. He says they may have a position on the administration's Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, even though it's already been passed. "They still think -- 'well, I'm not giving up, and I'll just put everybody at risk.' Meaning just the common, average person."

Danielle Velling also worries about foot-dragging over Obamacare. "I have no problem with them being opposed to it," she said. "I just think that they should do it the proper way, rather than shutting down our whole government system."

The plan developed by Senate leadership reportedly makes one change to Obamacare, requiring individuals and families to verify their incomes before qualifying for subsidies. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also said Wednesday morning Republicans got spending cut in one area of the budget for two years in a row, under the deal.

By the evening, House Speak John Boehner said Republicans fought a good fight, but lost.

The agreement would reopen the government through Jan. 15, and increase the nation's borrowing authority through Feb. 7. That avoids serious financial impacts, but several Kern County voters are worried about increasing U.S. debt.

"I don't understand why they keep on throwing the debt toward my youth," Ernesto Portillo said, he identifies himself as a student. "My generation's going to have to deal with the bulk of this."

"They should get together and come up with a plan to keep from raising the debt for one thing," Glenn Walsh offered.

Asked about President Barack Obama's role in the shutdown, some voters say he should have helped get the two sides together and others say he needed to stay on the sidelines.

"He's such a lightning rod, so I think he had to step back and let Congress work it out," Richard Monje said. Ted James thinks Obama needs to improve on bringing the two sides together.

Still, there's frustration over what happened in the last couple weeks. "Some people blame the Democrats, some people blame the Republicans," Chuck Abbe said. "I blame politicians."

Ted James is relieved it appears almost over, for now. "I hope this gets resolved, because this has far-reaching ramifications I don't think anybody wants to see happen," James said. "I think there's a lot of frustration. And where we used to have a lot of consensus-building and both sides of the aisle working together, we need to see more of that."