The 2017 United States fiscal year is more than half over. We know — you may have missed the celebration.
You may have also missed a sad fact: The federal government has yet to pass a single regular spending bill for any government department. Instead, last December, the lame-duck Congress passed something called a “continuing resolution” that funded government operations for the first months of this year.
Without another catch-all spending bill, though, the government will run out of the legal ability to spend money on April 28.
Passing another spending bill should be easy in a government fully controlled by one political party. Alas, nothing in Washington is easy. The shadow of a government shutdown is once again looming over the Capitol.
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That’s because some members of Congress want to attach outside bills to the must-pass spending measure. Some in Congress want extra money for a wall along the nation’s southern border — the one Mexico was supposed to pay for.
Still others want to defund Planned Parenthood or take away money for Obamacare. There will be a push for extra money for the military or cuts to domestic programs.
Adding extraneous measures to a catch-all spending bill will alienate Democrats. Leaving those measures off angers conservative Republicans.
The result? Not enough votes for a spending bill. Stalemate. Shutdown.
Government operations should not be held hostage to yet another fight over access to health care or immigration policy.
If Republicans can find the votes for a border wall or for ending Obamacare, they should hold those votes separately. Democrats, for their part, must resist the urge to add extraneous proposals to catch-all spending bills, too. At that point, Republicans and Democrats of good faith should come together to pass a bill that will keep the government open.
Happily, there are indications that commonsense Republicans understand the imperative to keep the government open past April 28. Part of that is politically motivated: The Trump administration needs to show some accomplishments quickly. But Republicans also sense Americans are in no mood to watch government dysfunction in action.
We’re with them.
Congress’ recent modus operandi has been government by crisis, every 180 days or so. Washington should pass a clean continuing resolution when it returns to work, then accelerate action on regular spending bills so we don’t have to go through this again next year.
What’s that, you say? Congress must raise the debt ceiling this fall?