Message to Congress: Do your job
January 23, 2018
Following a weekend of uncertainty, frantic negotiations and enough finger pointing and partisan recriminations to last us through the middle of the century, the U.S. Senate on Monday voted 81-18 to approve a temporary funding measure, ending the government shutdown, which began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
The House of Representatives quickly followed suit, and President Donald Trump signed the bill into law later the same day.
The temporary measure — which will fund the federal government through Feb. 8 — was the result of a Senate compromise. By terms of the compromise, Democrats agreed to back the three-week extension in exchange for assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he will use that extra three weeks to negotiate an agreement securing the future of the so-called "dreamers," undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and whose fate was the source of much of the disagreement that led to the shutdown in the first place.
While I'm happy Congress troubled itself to hammer out a solution and get the government running again, I still have to ask: What changed so drastically between late Friday night, when lawmakers couldn't seem to agree on anything, and Monday evening, when the obvious solution passed the Senate by an overwhelming majority?
I'll tell you what changed: Nothing did.
The Senate could just as easily have passed the temporary measure Friday night and spared thousands of federal workers and military personnel the unimaginable stress of wondering when they might be allowed to return to work, when they might expect another paycheck, when they might again have the means to partake in the luxuries of life — you know, things like food on one's the table and a roof over one's head.
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If it sounds like I'm angry, it’s because I am. The shutdown was nothing more than a political stunt, calculated and carried out by members of both parties to make members of the opposing party look bad.
Democrats dubbed this weekend’s impasse as "The Trump Shutdown," referring, of course, to President Trump, while Republicans insisted a better name would be "The Schumer Shutdown," referring, of course, to Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, Senate minority leader.
In fact, it was neither. What it was is a bunch of grown men and women behaving like children — refusing to even talk about funding the government until they'd secured everything they wanted as preconditions.
Even after the deal had been negotiated, voted on and signed by the president, some members of Congress were still openly hostile toward the arrangement.
According to an article on CNN, Sen. Kamala Harris, of California — the first Senate Democrat to embrace the strategy of rejecting any bill that didn’t include protections for DACA recipients — said it was “foolhardy” to believe McConnell made “any commitment whatsoever.”
“Listen, I’m disappointed with a conversation that suggests a false choice: You either fund the government or you take care of these DACA kids,” Harris said in the CNN report. “We can do both.”
Three other U.S. senators —Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand — joined Harris in casting the 18 Senate “no” votes.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also of California, added that she, too, was “disappointed” with the deal.
Here's my problem with the whole thing: It should never have come down to a "deal" in the first place. Funding the government is not about securing DACA, nor is it about winning support for a border wall. It’s about funding essential services, and that’s what Congress flatly refused to do for almost three days.
By the Constitution of the United States, it is the responsibility of Congress to appropriate the funds necessary to operate the government. Period. When its members refuse to carry out that responsibility, they're refusing to do the job we pay them — quite handsomely, by the way — to do, and they're breaking the trust we placed in them when we voted them into office in the first place.
I don't know about you, but if I were to refuse to perform the duties required by my job, I wouldn't have a job for very long, and I, for one, will remember that fact when it's time to cast another vote.
Jim Patterson is editor of the Craig Press. Contact him at 970-875-1790 or jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.