Since taking over one of the chambers of Congress after the 2010 midterm elections, the Republican House majority’s best tool for leveraging any sort of progress toward spending and other sort of reforms from Democrats has been the proverbial “purse strings.” It has brought the government to the edge of shut down on more than one occasion, but that has been what it took to get the President and his fellow Democrats to step away from massive tax hikes and irresponsible spending.
But now a group of Republican Senators, in what is being described as a not-so-subtle jab at their House counterparts, is proposing legislation that would significantly weaken the “purse strings” leverage. And North Dakota Senator John Hoeven is firmly planted in the group:
The End Government Shutdowns Act would create an automatic continuing resolution if Congress fails to fund the government through regular channels in time. Funding would continue at existing levels for 120 days, then fall by 1 percent every 90 days thereafter. The bill was unveiled by Portman and 9 cosponsors: Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Boozman (R-AR), Dan Coats (R-IN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Lee (R-UT) and John McCain (R-AZ).
It’s a not-so-subtle jab at House Republicans, who have been at the center of repeated near-shutdowns since 2011, refusing to fund the government unless their policy demands were met. The move reflects Senate Republicans’ frustration with the obstinacy of rank-and-file House colleagues, who are again flirting with shutting down the government this fall, just weeks away from the election.
“Although Congress continually fails to pass appropriations bills by the October 1st deadline, we should not force Americans to face the threat of government shutdown hanging over their heads,” Portman said in a statement. “Our legislation ensures the federal government continues to provide the necessary services to its citizens while protecting against the panic and pressure of last-minute budget deals, allowing Congress to make the decisions necessary to get Washington’s fiscal house back in order.”
In other words, this bill would make it easier for Democrats to do things like refuse to pass budgets and filibuster tax cuts.
It seems to me that if Congress isn’t passing budgets, etc., etc., then maybe there should be a crisis. A crisis seems to be the only impetus that will get Congress to act.
This is a foolish policy, and you have to wonder if the goal of those supporting it is meaningful budget and spending reforms, or political cover for politics-as-usual in Washington.
Sometimes, in order to get things done, the threat of a government shut down needs to be real.