Congress’ budget showdown came to a head this week in the latest episode in the all-too-common saga of governing from crisis to crisis. Both chambers have volleyed legislative proposals that ignored current law and stood little chance of success.
In the end, the political games outlasted a deadline to reach an agreement. That’s why, as I write this, the federal government is preparing for a shutdown. The consequences of inaction could include disruptions at the Social Security Administration, processing lapses at the VA will further delay benefits requests, for veterans seeking VA benefits, no processing of new federally secured home loans—which could damage a recovering housing market.
Financial markets dipped because of increased uncertainty even before the shutdown began, and will likely continue to do so.
And thousands of furloughed federal workers, who have bills to pay and families to support just like private sector employees, are bearing the brunt of the blame intended for elected officials’ failure to act.
Meanwhile, even with a government shutdown, Obamacare continues to barrel forward. The health care exchanges are opening, the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare continues and the individual mandate still applies.
The moral of this story is that the federal government is failing the American people. One of Congress’ fundamental responsibilities is to pass a budget and allocate taxpayer dollars. The President was late again this year in submitting his budget proposal to Congress.
Congress failed to pass necessary appropriations bills to lay the groundwork for a spending plan. As a result, Congress engaged in another countdown to crisis and another bill to extend current spending levels. This approach fails to address our dangerously high federal debt and ignores legal spending caps Congress set just two years ago.
Simply put, America deserves a better government.
That means elected officials follow the rules they created. It means we propose meaningful legislation. Strict party-line votes gave us the flawed Obamacare law, and with Democrats controlling the White House and Senate, strict party-line votes won’t be enough to undo the law.
America is a place where a diversity of viewpoints is welcome and tolerated. People with different political perspectives work together every day to solve problems at the local and state levels. Just look at Nebraska’s unicameral legislature. Partisan politics sometimes interfere, but our state is well managed and its leaders — local and state — frequently rise above politics to govern.
Congress is supposed to be a reflection of the people, and we have a responsibility to find real solutions, even in the midst of political disagreement.
Americans elected a Republican House and a Democrat Senate. This should not prevent the success of good ideas and responsible governance.
There is certainly a lot of blame to go around in both parties and chambers, but finger pointing is not going to get us any closer to making the important decisions that you sent your elected representatives to Washington to make. Americans are tired of political squabbles and managing by crisis. It’s time to come together and work for real, lasting results.
It’s time we stop creating problems, and start solving them.
This was written as funding for the government expired at midnight Sept. 30. Mike Johanns is the senior U.S. Senator from Nebraska.