The time has come for House Speaker John Boehner to permit the full chamber to vote on the Senate’s version of what’s been labeled a “clean continuing resolution” to fund the federal government.
Now in its second week, the partial government shutdown has become an exercise in partisan politics at its worst. Leaders from each party have stood their ground to the detriment of the American people, including federal government workers. There has been some compromise. Certain Democrats have agreed to lower the overall funding in the resolution by $70 billion. Now it’s the Republicans turn to meet the Democrats by allowing an up or down vote as a sign of trying to move forward.
Allow an up or down vote in the House, and let the American people see which members are playing politics and keeping the shutdown going.
Boehner has told the news media that there aren’t enough votes in the Republican-controlled House to approve a no-strings-attached, continuing resolution. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s bluffing. Let’s find out.
Members of Boehner’s own party, including Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, should urge the GOP leadership to put its cards on the table and let the American people know exactly what kind of hand their Congress is holding.
The longer this drags on, the more the pending U.S. debt ceiling crisis will become a factor in what happens to global financial markets. It’s a game of chicken that has dire consequences. Enough is enough.
And it’s not as if congressmen and congresswomen are feeling the pain that more than 800,000 furloughed federal employs have been experiencing.
Sure, more than a quarter of the members of Congress — including Pennsylvania delegates Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey and Reps. Barletta and Matt Cartwright — have deferred their $3,346 a week paychecks until the shutdown is lifted, or in some cases vowed to donate that pay to charity. But with a $174,000 a year salary for the rank-and-file members of Congress, a few weeks without pay won’t make much of a difference in their daily lives, especially since they’ll get their withheld paychecks retroactively when the deal to end the shutdown is made.
To minimize future disruptions, lawmakers should draft a rule that will penalize congressional members for not passing a budget each year in timely fashion. Municipalities must adopt yearly budgets; states do, too. Same goes for school districts.
For far too long the nation has operated without an annual budget, instead sliding by with stop-gap measures such as supplemental appropriations bills and other tomfoolery. (Remember the fizzled efforts of the so-called “supercommittee”?) Without any push back against elected officials for failing to adopt a spending plan prior to bringing the nation to the brink, these government shutdowns could become commonplace in the future.
Act now, Congress. Schedule an up or down vote on a clean continuing resolution in the House. And start the ball rolling on legislation that in the years ahead would dock the pay of congressional members for blowing by sensible budget deadlines and creating chaos.
We have a hunch that such a mechanism might just prevent future shutdowns.