HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Former Congressman Bud Cramer, who represented north Alabama in Washington for more than 17 years, spoke with us Friday about the current government shutdown.
He said a lot needs to change for progress to be made. Cramer was in office in the House during past a government shutdown, and said the climate is much different this time.
"The big difference then is that several appropriations bills had been passed. Right now, we don't have any appropriations bills that have been passed," said Cramer. "So, when you've passed those appropriations bills, then you have certain agencies and certain functions of government. This time we have no agencies, no functions of government that are funded. So it's a big difference."
Cramer also said the partisan atmosphere is much worse.
"You've got these standoffs with people backing themselves in a corner that make me wonder how you're going to get over this," said Cramer.
We asked Cramer what frustrates him about the current stalemate.
"The lack of camaraderie, the lack of civility. The coalition of folks I was
regularly a part of. Look, I had to cross that aisle. Some people said I was
hardly a Democrat. It was important to me to abandon that party label when it
came to accomplishing things for our very connected Congressional district
here," said Cramer. "So, I don't see that going on, and members are more or less strangers to one another."
Cramer now works as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, D.C. We asked him what he would say to members of Congress -- from all parties -- if he had their ear.
"It wouldn't be one thing, it would be one theme. Stand up to your leadership, stand up and work together to make something happen," said Cramer. "This health care issue is for another day. We can't lump it together."
"It seems that members, certain members are talking more to the country than
they are to one another to make government work," said Cramer. "I never thought government was my enemy. I never felt, that the district that I worked for, that I could afford to take the attitude that government was our enemy. Now, some members don't see it that way."
Cramer said redistricting is one of the big reasons for the current discord.
"The Congressional districts have been drawn in that you have very safe Democrats, and very safe Republicans. The middle is practically gone. That's the problem," Cramer said. "The moderates are gone -- the ones who could work together."
Cramer expressed major concern about the upcoming deadline to raise the debt ceiling - October 17 - which is less than two weeks away. He said our country would face devastating problems if Congress fails to act.
"Wall Street has been immune to the political play [associated with the shutdown]... but not to this," Cramer said. "We would be talking about an economic shutdown, not a government shutdown."
WHNT News 19 asked if this kind of heated debate is the future of Washington.
"It better not be," Cramer replied. "It will take some time to wear this out, for the dust to settle. But right now, this is the scene there."
"I do not believe, as partisan, as hyper-partisan as this Congress is, that they will let that debt ceiling, they will let us default," Cramer went on to say. "That, I believe, allows us a deadline and a way to wrap this up. I hold on to that hope.
Long term, though? Will this divisiveness continue?
"I do believe thy will wear some of their partisanship out over this," Cramer said. "There's just a lot of unintended consequences. There are families getting hurt by this, and [Congressmen] have gotta be hearing from those families."