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Congress's first job is to strengthen the economy

Before President Obama entered office, Americans were experiencing one of the worst economic recessions this country has ever seen. In 2008, unemployment was skyrocketing, and we were losing more than 600,000 jobs per month. Quite simply, American families were hurting, struggling to get by.

In the years since, we've been on the road to economic recovery. Overall, we've now seen 44 consecutive months of private sector job growth, resulting in 7.8 million new jobs. In October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, America added another 204,000 jobs. That's serious progress, but there is more work to do.

In the midst of a delicate recovery, it should go without saying that Congress's first job is to do everything in its power to strengthen the economy and encourage job growth. Instead, we saw the exact opposite last month as a government shutdown driven by the Tea Party delivered unnecessary harm to our economy and to millions of Americans.

When all was said and done, the shutdown cost American taxpayers $2 billion in lost worker productivity alonemoney that was paid to furloughed employees for work they couldn't do. In total, federal workers were furloughed for a combined 6.6 million days.

This was political brinkmanship at its worst. After 17 days, Congress finally ended the shutdown by passing a continuing resolution—but that short-term measure only funds the government until January 15th.

Now, Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress are conferencing to hash out a long-term budget that stops kicking the can down the road. This is an opportunity to move past the political antics and get to real governing. It is time to reach a bipartisan budget agreement that continues to reduce our deficit, but does so in a balanced, sensible manner, and one that guarantees a better bargain for the middle class.

The conference has until December 13th to produce a budget and send it to the full House and Senate. If they can't come to agreement on a new spending plan by January 15th, we'll be looking at another government shutdown. Needless to say, Americans cannot afford to be put through that again.

Add your name and tell Congress to pass a budget that guarantees a better bargain for the middle class.

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