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Grijalva, Ciscomani warn that government shutdown could be on horizon

Southern Arizona’s two members of Congress discussed immigration issues, climate change and the possibility of a government shutdown at a forum hosted by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Republican freshman U.S. Rep. Juan Ciscomani warned about the dangers of deficit spending while longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva characterized bipartisan packages of COVID aid and infrastructure projects and the Democratic-only initiatives in the Inflation Reduction Act as ‘investments.”

Speaking in a hanger at Pima Community College’s Aviation Technology Center, both Ciscomani and Grijalva said they hoped for a budget agreement that could avoid a federal government shutdown, but time is running out.  When they return to Washington from summer recess on Sept. 12, lawmakers will have less than three weeks to hammer out a budget agreement before the end of the federal government’s fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Ciscomani noted that the House Appropriations Committee, on which he sits, has passed 10 of 12 spending bills and the full House has passed one of those bills.

“I don’t want to paint a picture where it’s going to be an easy slam dunk,” Ciscomani said. “I’ll tell you what would be very risky, is a shutdown. I don’t think anybody wants that. I certainly don’t.”

Ciscomani said lawmakers could settle for a continuing resolution to buy time for more budget negotiations.

Grijalva said that since winning control of the House in the 2022 elections, Republicans have already held the debt ceiling hostage and are now discussing “clawing back some of the commitments that have been made with the Inflation Reduction Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, clawing those back in terms of budget cuts.”

Grijalva also complained that GOP lawmakers are seeking to insert what he called “cultural grievances”—policy issues regarding abortion and LGBT rights—into must-pass spending packages.

“A woman’s right to choose is not something I’m going to negotiate away,” Grijalva said, drawing a loud round of applause.

Ciscomani said that with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives and Democrats controlling the U.S. Senate and the White House, any spending plan will have to be palatable to both parties.

“Whatever agreement we come to has to be something that can pass all the way through,” Ciscosmani said.

Ciscomani said that whether the federal government has been under Republican control, Democratic control or divided between the parties, “one thing has been consistent. And that’s been our spending and our debt going up.”

Ciscomani said he believed it was important to determine the government’s proper role in the economy and warned that high taxes and too much regulation could stifle business.

“What is the proper role that the government can play there?” Ciscomani mused. “Sometimes it reminds me of a famous quote by Ronald Reagan, when he said the nine scariest words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, I’m here to help.’”

Moderator Karla Bernal Morales, Southern Arizona vice president of the Arizona Tech Council and chair of the chamber’s board, noted that this is the first time that both of Southern Arizona’s U.S. representatives were Latino. Because both also represent border districts, immigration was a major topic of conversation.

Grijalva said he continued to support a comprehensive immigration reform package similar to the one passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013. But given the political challenges of getting that done, Grijalva said Congress should at least push forward with resolving the legal status of so-called “Dreamers,” or immigrant youth who have grown up in the United States, as well as the status of undocumented veterans who have been departed.

“Let’s do the (American) Dream and Promise Act and get this settled once and for all,” Grijalva said.

Ciscomani drew upon his own experience as a legal immigrant to the United States, saying it took 14 years for his family to become U.S. citizens after they came to the United States from the Sonoran city of Hermosillo when he was 11 years old.

“This issue is very personal for me,” Ciscomani said. “We need to take care of our DACA students, our Dreamers, who have been in this country their entire lives, that I see myself reflected in. They don’t know any other country. In many cases, they don’t know any other language. And they reach their senior year in high school and feel like they don’t have a shot of the American dream.”

Ciscomani said he also supported legislation to allow U.S. companies to hire more foreign workers.

“We’re talking about expediting a process for companies to be able to hire workers with work visas,” Ciscomani said. “I’m on board for that.”

The House members diverged on incentives for clean energy, with Grijalva supporting the incentives such as tax rebates for investments in clean energy systems. Grijalva said fossil fuels have long been subsidized by the federal government and by investing in renewable energy, the United States could reduce greenhouse gasses that are contributing to climate change and extreme weather events.

Ciscomani said while he supports efforts to increase energy efficiency, businesses didn’t need incentives and mandates because they would take care of reducing their energy use themselves.

“Many of them are doing it without the government telling them they need to do this,” Ciscomani said. “At the end of the day, what we want is energy that is reliable, that is affordable, that is clean energy. I think we all want to move in that direction.”


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