Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
Once again, Congress has failed to perform its most fundamental duty of funding the Federal government. There is a process for funding the government – the House of Representatives, as the chamber that constitutionally must initiate all spending bills, passes authorization and appropriation bills for each agency, department and function of the Federal government and passes the appropriation bills on to the Senate for action. Hypothetically, the Senate then debates the appropriation bills and either concurs with the House or passes its own appropriations. If the latter occurs, the chambers then meet in conference and iron out their differences so the appropriations can be enacted in time for the start of the Federal fiscal year on September 1. Note that I said HYPOTHETICALLY; for the current fiscal year (which is almost half over) the House did its job but the Senate failed to enact or even consider any of the appropriation bills. And this has been the pattern for many years -a total breakdown of the Congressionally mandated system. So, our Federal government has been funded by a series of short-term “Continuing Resolutions, or CRs” that authorize funding for a limited time,usually at the same level as the previous CR. I believe we were operating under the third CR for this fiscal year prior to this morning..
Last night, the Republicans and Democrats, under failed leadership from all directions, failed to agree on a new CR. At 12:01 this morning, the Federal government technically shut down because there was no money available to continue its work. The shutdown is not because here is no money- the printing presses are still functional. The problem is that the managers of this enterprise refuse to spend the money to stay open. Who are the managers – Congress, But, who are the owners – WE are. So why do we allow the managers that we hired to shut down our government? This is no way to run a railroad.
SO, who wins? The Republicans believe they have created a political advantage for the mid-term elections by blaming the Democrats for the shutdown. The Democrats believe they won by standing firm on their promise to take care of the Dreamers.The President always thinks he won – reality doesn’t live in his world.
Who lost? First of all, the millions of children who are insured under the Child Health Insurance Program that is out of funds. Secondly, the Dreamers who are desperate for the legislative fix to their situation. Third, the millions of Americans working for the Federal government, including the military, or whose livelihood is tied to the work of the Federal government. And, certainly last but not least, US.
.Why did the effort to fund our government for one month fail last night? One – total lack of leadership. Two – total focus on “in yo face” electoral victories over the public good. Three – the desperate need on the part of the Democrats to avoid being run over by the Republicans and President Trump one more time. In 2017, the Democrats were left out of the attempt to Repeal and Replace Obamacare (which lost only because of the ineptitude of the Republican leadership), shut out of the tax bill, helpless to stem the rollback of the regulatory state, and hoisted on their own petard as the President nominated and confirmed conservative judges at all levels. They needed something to fire up their base, and standing up for the Dreamers was all that was available. Ergo, government shutdown.
Our Constitution begins with these words – WE, THE PEOPLE. In that hypothetical room where the negotiations were being theoretically conducted to fund the government, who was present?The Republicans and the Democrats, for sure. The President as an interested party. The lobbyists for the parties either benefiting or losing from the discussions. Who was missing? US. We the people whose lives and futures are impacted by what happens in that room.
It is not the system that is broken. The problem is the men and women that are elected to represent We The People who go to Washington and leave us behind. By getting elected they prove their political expertise; unfortunately, when they arrive in the Swamp, they forget that being elected carries the responsibility of governing. If you get an opportunity this election season to ask a person running for Congress a question, ask them who they represent – their party, an interest group, a faction within their party, or YOU. And get a straight answer.