The partial shut-down is now entering its third week.
Even while the chambers disagree on the continuing spending resolution, the House did pass bills to fund:
- The military
- The National Nuclear Security Administration
- Critical Department of Homeland Security components
- The Federal Aviation Administration
- Survivor benefits for fallen soldiers
- Head Start
- The Food and Drug Administration
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children The Federal Emergency Management Agency
- National Park Service operations
- The Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- The District of Columbia
- Veterans' benefits.
The Senate could kindly pass these bills to restore funding for all of these programs right now and we could still negotiate on the rest.
But the Senate will not. They are content to let the military, the veterans, women on supplemental assistance, nuclear and homeland security, and all the rest go unpaid--because their value to them as bargaining chips.
No one will weep that the IRS or the EPA isn't funded. So, the Senate is blocking funding to programs people depend on. The goal is to make the American people suffer as much as possible, and say it's the Republicans' fault for not cowing to their demands.
I've said all along each program should be funded separately. It's ridiculous that our military shuts down because ObamaCare funding isn't agreed on.
The Senate could fund these programs, right now, if indeed it thinks any of them are actually necessary and should be removed from the bargaining table. We offered them full funding.
But as if all of these programs are not enough hostages for the Senate to take, now we face a looming debt ceiling deadline.
And here once again, it's another crisis for the President and Senate to exploit.
Let me make one thing clear: there is absolutely no reason why the government should need to miss a single payment on our obligations.
Earlier this year, the House passed the Full Faith and Credit Act, which would take default off the table... permanently.
The bill would prevent the federal government from defaulting by mandating that the Treasury pay the nation's debts even after the debt ceiling is reached. There is enough federal revenue to cover those costs.
Sadly, the bill is laying lifeless in the Senate, along with every other bill to restore essential government services. Not to mention the thirteen compromise proposals offered by Republicans last week.
In true Orwellian "newspeak," where every word means its opposite, President Barack Obama said he wanted two things to change: no more negotiating under threat. And no more lurching from crisis to crisis.
But it is he, and his allies in the Senate, holding every essential service hostage in their battle to fund the President's compulsory insurance law (compulsory for you, not certain corporations, to whom he granted a year-long delay.)
And ObamaCare is itself a crisis, on top of America's fiscal problems and tax issues that have already reached critical mass.
We should take the health care reform dispute off the table for at least a year. Considering the numerous problems we are already seeing in its implementation, that's not a lot to ask.
And even still, so far, I've voted Yes on just about everything since the partial shut-down began. We need to reduce spending, but this is not the way to do it.
It's time to stop covering up hard fiscal decisions with "business as usual" continuing resolutions, and continued deficit borrowing that passes our government debt on to the next Congress and the next generation.
That's why I became a co-sponsor of the INFORM Act last week. The INFORM Act requires the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the General Accountability Office (GAO), and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do fiscal gap accounting and generational accounting on an annual basis and, upon request by Congress, to use these accounting methods to evaluate major proposed changes in fiscal legislation.
You can read about the INFORM Act at this website. It is endorsed by 15 Nobel Laureates in Economics, and many others.
It is easy, especially in the heat of a government partial shut-down and looming debt ceiling crisis, to forget that the much bigger issue is not how we will fund the government for the next few weeks or next year, but for the long term.
We're having these skirmishes over the budget right now because the long-term fundamentals are unsound. A vast new government health care dragnet is not going to solve our problems.
Partisanship and political brinkmanship aside, the real issue here is our fiscal policy, short term and long.
I will keep you informed of the situation as it develops.