By Ellie Kreidie
On Jan. 19, the government shut down for three days following a standoff between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of DACA recipients, who are due to lose their protected status by March 5 because of a deadline set by President Trump. In turn, the government reopened on that Monday, but many of the issues that caused the government to shutdown remained unsolved. Instead, a deadline to properly fund the government was passed to Feb. 8, less than three weeks from the original shutdown date. Meaning this week we may very well see another government shutdown.
This practice of threatening government shutdowns from either party due to neither side willing to make concessions to introduce overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation to fund the government did not start with the 45th president. Nor did it start with Obama or Bush or Clinton. It was the result of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 where the role of Congress in the federal budgetary process modified to create standing budget committees in both chambers, established the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and moved the beginning of the fiscal year from July 1 to Oct. 1. All these modifications, though promising in principle, ended up creating avenues for destruction from both parties to abuse their power when trying to navigate the budget. Since its passage, there have been 19 government shutdowns, including the one from this year. One thing is clear from all these separate occurrences: Congress still hasn’t learned from its mistakes.
For a budget bill to pass, it must clear a majority in the House, receive 60 votes in the Senate and be signed by the President. This procedure is meant to ensure the budget has bipartisan support, but each entity is wildly different. In the process leading up to passing a budget, all entities work on a draft bill meant to propose amendments up until the vote itself. Known as a Continuing Resolution, or CR, this bill becomes the most important document leading up to the deadline. As we saw in January, there were changes to the CR up until the failed vote on January 19. This practice of rushing to a deadline to pass the budget only to find that there are still issues that need to be resolved thereby pushing the government to shutdown needs to stop.
If the government shuts down on Feb. 8, remember that the budget should have been approved on Oct. 1, nearly half a year ago. Government shutdowns affect real people and affect our nation tremendously. Earlier this week, Defence Secretary James Mattis said this to the House Armed Services Committee, detailing his disappointment in further government shutdown threats: “I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time because no strategy can survive, as you pointed out, chairman, without the funding necessary to resource it.” Senator Rand Paul, one of the most outspoken libertarian politicians today, stated earlier this week that the best plan to eliminate government shutdowns is to automatically cut 1% of the budget to punish Congress.
Congress has incredibly low approval ratings and the ratings of leadership on both sides are not much better. There is a reason Americans are always frustrated and disappointed in Congress, and it is this inability to work together due to focusing on party politics that further threaten government shutdowns nearly every year. This week, let’s hope Congress finally learns its lesson and passes a budget that lasts at least two fiscal years, as Senate leadership has been working on. In Congress, it may take 19 tries to learn that threatening government shutdowns helps no one.
Ellie is a freshman.
Graphic by David Giacomini