No more shutdowns

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his congressional colleagues' game of brinksmanship comes at a cost.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his congressional colleagues' game of brinksmanship comes at a cost.

Why do our politicians in Washington continue to play the government shutdown game? They win nothing for either political party. Their credibility only slides further south. And real people suffer. It is time to end this nonsense once and for all.

Monday began with about 800,000 federal workers furloughed without pay because Congress could not reach a deal on a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government. This meant vital work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped at the height of a flu epidemic. It meant military members in uniform still had to report for duty, but would not get paid. It meant private-sector businesses could not get services they need to continue their own work.

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Democrats in the Senate refused last week to vote for the continuing resolution because Republicans — who control both houses of Congress and White House — refused to make a deal that would have addressed the fate of undocumented immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Now the Democrats have agreed to fund the government and the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, has agreed to take up immigration reform in return. Since this was the obvious and inevitable deal, it could have done without a shutdown.

This silly brinkmanship comes at a cost. The last shutdown, which lasted 16 days in the fall of 2013, cost the U.S. economy about $20 billion.

The game of chicken that is shutdown politics would not even be an option if Congress did what it should have done and passed a full budget before the end of the fiscal year in September.

Even when leaders from each party have reached a deal on a continuing resolution, that bill will only have funded the government for another couple of weeks, setting the stage for yet another nail-biting will-they-or-won’t-they countdown to potential shutdown.

Whether American taxpayers can access the offices, agents, and services they need is not what matters to our politicians. The only thing that matters is who they believe voters will blame.

This is not what voters sent anyone to Washington to do.

In 2013, Sen. Rob Portman proposed an “automatic continuing resolution,” which would avoid shutdowns and keep the government running while the politicians squabble and preen. He proposed a particular formula, which is not necessarily the formula. The objective is a safety system that would keep the government functioning at the same funding level until a new budget is agreed upon.

This adult solution seems like a no-brainer to adults not intimately engaged in our national politics.

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