“Did we really need to shut down the federal government for five hours?”
If every single member of Congress isn’t asking themselves that question this morning, then they should re-evaluate what they’re doing with their political careers.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky decided he would hold up all votes on a deal to keep the government open. He single-handedly ensured that the government would shut down over spending concerns. The Senate was designed to protect the rights of the minority, and the smaller states, but it wasn’t designed with the idea that one member could gum up the wheels of keeping government operational.
Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi has lead her conference squarely to the ledge of “DACA or Bust,” referring to “dreamers,” illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. She even tried her version of a House filibuster Thursday talking consecutively for 8 hours to clog the drain. The Republican majority was able to go around her and muster enough votes to pass a spending deal without many Democrat votes.
It’s not to say Paul and Pelosi aren’t right. You can absolutely argue (and I do) that they are right. Republicans swept into control of Washington in 2010 on a promise to roll back spending, balance the budget, and start to chip away at the trillions (yes, with a t) of additional national debt the Obama Administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress racked up. Nobody can argue that the tax cut bill passed last year by the Republicans will add to the national debt. It would take a 6% growth rate to make up for the revenue difference, and that just isn’t logical. This deal ensured even more would be added to the deficit. Paul is right to call out the hypocrisy of his party.
Pelosi, too, has her points. “Dreamers” have done nothing criminal (their parents did), and deserve a solution to legal limbo they’ve been in. Instead, Democrats have isolated this issue as their stake for the November election. They seem to think being the party of “Not Trump” isn’t enough of a message to win in November. But, is hooking your wagon to about 800,000 DACA recipients enough? (800,000 is roughly the size of a Congressional district.)
The bottom line is that Congress needs to stop governing by crisis. They should get back in regular order (remember the Ways & Means Committee?) and work to pass a bipartisan budget that begins to pay down the debt while keeping government running and running more efficiently. Republicans also need to come through on their promise to work toward a DACA solution. But, Democrats need to be at the table instead of just acting as the party of “no.”
In life, unexpected expenses and crises happen. Government will always have to deal with those, too, but we all need to expect our elected officials to act more responsibly as they run the government.
Patrick Pfingsten is an award-winning journalist, political consultant, and PR expert. You can find him on Twitter @pfingsten1 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.