By Doug Ireland
---- — The federal government shutdown may be over in Washington, but frustration with members of Congress lingers in Southern New Hampshire.
Only hours after congressional leaders agreed to end the 16-day shutdown, sending thousands of federal employees back to work, local residents weighed in.
The majority of the 17 people interviewed, many of whom were afraid to give their names for fear of losing their military or Social Security benefits, agreed the shutdown could have been avoided. They also said another shutdown would likely occur when the bipartisan agreement ends in early 2014.
“It’s just a mess,” said Don Carreau, 69. of Londonderry. “I think it was ridiculous. There is no reason why they couldn’t reach some kind of agreement.”
Carreau, a former federal government employee, recalled how he was furloughed for three days during the last shutdown in 1995.
“There was no need for it,” he said. “These people (congressional leaders) were still allowed to get paid. I think they should at least lose their pay for closing down for 16 days.”
Carreau was one of many local residents to question why members of Congress still received their paychecks while federal employees did not.
Those employees returned to work and national parks, museums and other shuttered federal properties reopened yesterday.
“I feel bad for those who were affected,” said Elizabeth Belmonte, 38, of Derry. “I think the people in Washington need to understand what the rest of the people are going through. I blame all of them for not being able to play together.”
For Philip Riley, 23, of Derry, the end of the shutdown was a big relief for his family.
“Luckily, it’s over,” said Riley, who was shopping in Derry yesterday.
Riley said his father, a retired Air Force veteran, was concerned about not receiving his military pension if the shutdown continued.
“I’m kind of relieved about it,” he said. “Now, the threat of him not getting paid is over. It’s just been the stress of not knowing.”
Congress approved funding of government operations through Jan. 15 and authorized borrowing until Feb. 7, meaning it will only be a matter of time before another stalemate arises again in Washington, local residents said.
“I think we’ll go through the same thing come January, February,” said Michelle Kamerman, 39, of Londonderry.
Her friend, Julie Vander Meer, 40, of Londonderry agreed. She said her husband, a defense contractor, worked with many people who were furloughed.
Vander Meer was among many local residents who said congressional incumbents should not be re-elected in November 2014.
“I hope none of them get re-elected,” she said. “Not a single one.”
Dianne Hein, 45, of Derry agreed.
“I just think it’s a shame,” she said of the shutdown. “I think I would vote them out.”
Although a few people interviewed blamed Republicans and a couple others blamed Democrats, most said both parties were to blame.
“It’s everybody,” Hein said.
Barbara Clague, 54, of Hampstead also said both parties are to blame.
“They’re all like children — let’s put new people in there,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a country that’s together. They need to play nicely.”
New Hampshire’s four members of Congress praised the agreement reached, but said the shutdown should have been avoided. Each issued statements.
“I am relieved to support this bipartisan bill that ends the government shutdown, eliminates the threat of default, and gets our economy moving again,” Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., said. “This is not a perfect bill. Nor is it a bill that I, or most Americans, are celebrating. It is a necessary compromise in the face of an unnecessary government shutdown.”
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., agreed.
“I’m glad we were able to come together and pass a bipartisan plan tonight to reopen our government, which never should have been shut down, and avoid the catastrophic economic consequences of a default,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., also lauded the agreement.
“I’m glad that Republicans and Democrats have reached an agreement that will end the government shutdown and address the debt ceiling in the short term,” Ayotte said. “However, much work remains to be done to address the underlying fiscal challenges that brought us to this point – including our $17 trillion debt.”
Congresswoman Ann Kuster, D-N.H., admitted the agreement wasn’t ideal.
“This isn’t a perfect bill, but it reflects good-faith, bipartisan negotiations and provides a way forward at this late stage,” she said.