Should Congress ban the use of government shutdowns? | The Tylt
Lawmakers have narrowly avoided another government shutdown, coming together on a compromise mere days before the deadline. While Democrats are happy with the deal—which provides the president with a small fraction of the border wall funding he had been pushing for—many are wondering why government shutdowns have become such an omnipresent threat. Several pieces of legislation have been proposed to make shutdowns obsolete. But many lawmakers want the threat to negotiate with. What do you think?
Should Congress ban the use of government shutdowns?
According to The Week, most countries do not have budgets so intimately ruled by political debate and partisanship. In other countries, not passing a budget leads to swift and decisive consequences.
No sensible country does things like this. In parliamentary systems, failure to pass a budget usually means an automatic vote of no confidence and new elections, while the government keeps ticking in the meantime. That is probably the best way of doing things — but the pre-1980 method of just leaving things going as they were if no budget is passed is still far superior than the current shutdown-prone mess.
For decades, members of Congress have proposed a solution to the threat of government shutdowns—automatic continuing resolutions. According to Slate:
Such proposals, numerous versions of which have been introduced and debated over the years, essentially say that if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill by deadline, the government automatically enters into a continuing resolution. Under a system like this, it wouldn’t have mattered that the House Freedom Caucus, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter convinced the president overnight to oppose the stopgap bill and “fight” for the wall. The federal government would have automatically kept running at previously agreed-upon levels until negotiators came up with something better.
While the solution to the threat of shutdowns is relatively simple, no such legislation has ever been passed. According to The Atlantic, some worry an automatic continuing resolution would lead lawmakers to rest on their laurels and refuse to pass any permanent budget on principle.
[G]etting rid of the threat of a government shutdown might make the appropriations process worse, with Congress doing even less budgeting since the cost of failing to compromise would be lower. The Hill might leave the budget on autopilot for years at a time, never coming to an agreement on how to shape, update, and improve the services that Washington provides. A stuck-in-time budget would choke off the necessary, natural expansion of federal spending as the country gets bigger and inflation eats at the dollar.
Tom Davis, a former Republican representative, proposed legislation that would instate automatic continuing resolutions during his time in office. But according to the Washington Post, nothing was ever passed because lawmakers have little to no incentive to do away with shutdowns.
Despite its simplicity, the proposal never got serious consideration, Davis told The Washington Post on Sunday night. “The problem is that it takes away the ability of one side to blackmail the other side. That’s why it never goes anywhere.”
And this “is the way the leadership wants it,” he said. “They like the brinkmanship . . . At the end of the day, most members don’t care if the government shuts down if it helps get them to a better place” on some specific issue of importance to their base, he said.