During the late government shutdown, Republicans kept repeating the talking point that the Democrats were damaging American national security by tying up the budget over the status of 800,000 or so illegal aliens covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Democrats, for their part, behaved in the manner their party mascot suggests they would. Not only did they endanger national security but they also played politics with the payment for our honorable men and women in uniform (as well as their families who depend on their paychecks). Not cool.
At the same time, it is grating listening to the Republicans whine about how terrible the Democrats are, without ever taking responsibility for the fact that over the last 16 years (certainly over the last year), the GOP in Congress could have prevented this kind of Democratic chicanery. If they had been responsible stewards of the American purse, we wouldn’t be here. Going forward, the GOP needs to behave as responsible legislators instead of as enablers of bad governing.
Congress has a constitutional obligation to fund the government. Our civic education may not be top-notch, but most people understand that Congress holds the power of the purse. Of the three branches of government, the one closest to the people has the power to fund the rest. Congress raises the revenues and allocates the dollars. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.
It doesn’t. For years, the federal budget process has been corrupted by the zero-sum game of chicken that our two political parties insist on playing with each other (at everyone else’s expense).
So, yes, the Democrats instigated the latest shutdown. But let us not forget that the entire reason shutdowns remain a threat at all is that Congress has essentially abdicated its constitutional duties.
Since the 1980s, there have been eight major government shutdowns. Each one is an example of just how pathetic (and useless) Congress has become.
Today’s governing is not about enacting policies and laws that benefit the most Americans. It is simply about picking one’s preferred narrative—and sticking to the absurd script, no matter what may come. How is it that virtue-signaling politicians in Washington, D.C. could endanger the world’s most advanced military anyway?
The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires both houses of Congress to adopt a budget resolution separately. The resolution creates a spending blueprint for the fiscal year, and helps Congress make essential decisions related to the budget (where to spend, what to cut, and what to keep the same). The budget resolution is not the budget; it is simply a promise by Congress to adhere to a generally agreed upon framework that will guide them in voting on a budget for the fiscal year—and they rarely can agree on the deadline for adopting a budget resolution.
In reality, Congress is supposed to pass separate spending bills for the federal government. For years, the number of appropriations bills has numbered around a dozen. Of those, according to the Pew Research Center, only about a third ever arrive on time. The budgeting process is now so convoluted that Congress abandoned the 12 individual bills in recent years and relied simply on “omnibus” legislation, creating a giant, politically fraught bill that congressional leaders assume is too big to fail.
Both parties in Congress care little for fulfilling their constitutional duties. They’ve become captured by special interests—whether they be groups obsessed with identity politics or big corporations interested only in padding their quarterly bottom lines. Being a congressman or a senator is one of the easiest jobs in the world: we’ve had a host of people performing these duties since the founding of the country. But, it is only in recent years that our Congress has become consumed with the politics of the absurd.
In any other industry, failure to perform the basic duties of the job would get a person fired. In another form of government, many of our elected leaders would end up with votes of “no confidence” and be booted from office. In America today, however, we get to hear Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) whine about the rights of people who came here illegally, and then watch Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) use the American military as a prop in this political theater of the outrageous.
This debate is another example of how most of the members of both parties in Congress need ousting. And, it is also a compelling reason for congressional term limits. Absent competent representation (with people who can pass a balanced budget on time), Congress will continue being useless.