BY OWEN TERRY
By Oct. 1 of every year, the House, the Senate, and the President all have to come to an agreement on the federal budget for the fiscal year, a period lasting from Oct. 1 to Sep. 30. The federal budget is made of 12 appropriations bills, each of which provides funding for a section of the government. If the two chambers of Congress and the President cannot come to an agreement on an appropriations bill, they can pass a continuing resolution, which means that they use the appropriations bill from the last fiscal year until they can pass a new one. If this doesn’t happen either, the sections of the government that were to be funded by that bill don’t get any money until a bill is passed. The failure to pass these bills can result in a partial or total government shutdown, during which parts of the government don’t function due to a lack of money.
While disagreement among branches of government is inevitable in a democracy, it is ridiculous for these disagreements to stop the government from functioning. It is illogical that a representative of the people would choose a shutdown over a continuing resolution; however, recent events have shown that it happens anyway. In order to avoid disastrous government shutdowns in the future, a continuing resolution should automatically be put in place in the event that an appropriations bill does not pass.
During a shutdown, the essential parts of the federal government – the postal service and hospitals, for example – continue to function. However, the non-essential parts of the government, like the national parks, close until a budget is passed. This means that federal workers doing essential jobs are expected to work without pay, and the rest of the workers are without a job until a budget is passed allocating them a salary. During the recent government shutdown that began on Dec. 22, 2018, 800,000 government workers went without pay for 35 days. Although they were retroactively paid for the money they missed, this was of little help to workers living paycheck to paycheck who could not afford basic necessities for a month because a budget was not passed.
This system needs to change. Elected officials have shown that they are willing to use a shutdown as a negotiating tool, with a substantial number of legislators choosing to wreak havoc on hundreds of thousands of lives rather than making a compromise, and President Trump even stating that the Dec. 22 shutdown could go on for “months or even years” in order to get $5.7 billion for a border wall in the budget. Now that so many politicians have shown the damage they are willing to inflict to push their agendas, we can no longer trust them with the power to do that damage. Cutting off funds to federal workers and parts of the federal government is an illogical solution to the problem of an absence of a budget. Rather than shutting down, the government should be required to recycle old appropriations bills using continuing resolutions when parts of the budget don’t pass in order to ensure stability in the country.
The government should never be shut down. Instead, we should expect more from our elected officials to disagree in a constructive fashion.