September 27, 2023 - 9:00 pm
It’s well past time for Congress to address Washington’s spending problem. But repeated government shutdowns have not proven effective and are a political albatross for Republicans. The latest threatened shutdown, set for Sunday, will be more of the same.
This is true even though the ramifications of temporarily turning out the lights in Washington are nowhere near as catastrophic as big-spending activists and Democrats would have Americans believe. Yes, many people will be inconvenienced. Markets and the economy will suffer in the short term. But if history is any indication, the Treasury has the funds to meet its obligations for the few weeks that most stalemates endure.
Yet the GOP House members pushing for this disruption can’t escape the fact that voters don’t like shutdowns. Many of these Republican representatives are from comfortable gerrymandered districts, so this is of minimal concern to them. They should, however, ponder whether this approach pushes them further from their ultimate objectives in the long run. While shutdowns in the past may have usefully highlighted the nation’s perilous fiscal path, today they seem more representative of the Beltway dysfunction that frustrates many Americans.
This is especially true when neither Republicans nor Democrats have the numbers to prevail. The GOP majority in the House is only four votes. The Senate leans Democrat by two votes. A Democrat sits in the White House. Practically, any deal to keep the government operating will require compromise by both sides. That’s political reality. To argue otherwise is wishful thinking.
The gridlock in the House led the Senate on Tuesday to push forward with a bipartisan measure that would buy another few months by extending government funding until mid-November while also providing additional aid to Ukraine. House Republicans have balked at the latter, while insisting on more money for border security.
“We’ve got a problem, national security problem and an economic problem, particularly with the border. That’s our leverage point,” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a member of twhe House Freedom Caucus, told The Washington Post. But that’s the rub: Such thinking is unrealistic given the current makeup of Congress unless Rep. Norman and others are willing to make compromises in other areas to cut a bipartisan deal with Senate Democrats.
In the long run, the only way for Republicans to address the federal government’s addiction to spending other people’s money is to field competent, principled candidates who believe in fiscal responsibility and make that case to voters in an effort to build majorities in Congress while winning the Oval Office. Until that happens, shutdowns are a poor substitute for the statesmanship that divided government requires.