The Social Security office in Sterling was open Monday. A handful of people were there late morning. Sizable photos of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hung on the wall.
A security guard greeted a reporter walking into the office along East Lincolnway. The reporter asked whether the office would be open today if the government shuts down.
He didn’t know, so he asked a supervisor. The supervisor emerged from her office and referred the reporter to an agency spokeswoman in Chicago, who couldn’t be reached for comment.
According to many media accounts, Social Security offices will remain open during a “government shutdown,” but the federal agency plans to reduce staffing, which could mean delays in the processing of applications.
The Sauk Valley doesn’t have a big presence of federal employees, but a shutdown would affect a few area agencies. Department of Agriculture offices would close their doors, but the Veterans Affairs clinic in Sterling is expected to remain open.
Meanwhile, the area’s two congressmen reflect the partisan divide in Congress.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, who represents Lee County, joined the House Republican majority in voting for a bill to fund the government at current levels, while delaying Obama’s health care law for a year.
The Democratic Senate has already rejected that position, and even if such a bill passed both Houses, Obama has promised to veto it.
If no agreement is reached, the government will shut down today, the start of the federal fiscal year.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, who represents Whiteside County, said she wants to avoid a government shutdown. She favors a bill to continue funding the government, without controversial additions such as delaying the Affordable Care Act or approving construction of the Keystone pipeline.
Bustos previously voted to delay for a year the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which would require everyone to get health insurance or pay a tax. She voted against the delay of the entire law for a year.
“The Senate would not accept that,” her spokesman, Colin Milligan, said. “The consequences of a government shutdown will be very bad.”
In a speech on the House floor, Bustos said she was willing to work with those with whom she disagrees “to find solutions that put people before politics.”
In a statement over the weekend, Kinzinger called the vote to delay Obamacare “bipartisan.” Only two Democrats, though, supported the delay. Both represent conservative districts and had voted against the Affordable Care Act in the first place.
“Is that a bipartisan bill?” Milligan said. “Technically, yes. But it was pretty party line.”
In his statement, Kinzinger said the federal government “should give every American the same 1-year delay from the burdens of Obamacare that the Obama administration gave to big businesses.”
“With new delays, glitches and confusion each week, Democrats should welcome this opportunity to prevent this train wreck of a law from taking effect [today],” the statement said.