Around the country, businesses and local governments are breathing a sigh of relief as lawmakers avoided a travesty Friday night that hasn’t occurred in more than a decade – the shutdown of the federal government because of a lack of funding. The last-minute agreement ensured that federal employees will still be at work, earning a living and that all federally-funded programs and organizations will remain open.
This is a significant event for all of us. For many, it means that a parent doesn’t have to come home for an indefinite, unpaid vacation, that federal tax refunds can be processed as usual and that states and localities can continue to depend on the federal funds to funnel down to them.
The deal, which was agreed upon less than an hour before the government was to power off, included a funding extension to keep the government running through April 15 and a framework for a budget for the rest of the fiscal year. The short-term extension includes $2 billion in cuts, while the budget framework includes $38.5 billion in cuts.
The passage of this bill is truly a product of compromise.
The Democrats agreed to billions in cuts that many of them feel is too much, too quickly. Republicans, on the other hand, ceased insisting on $61 billion of cuts. Many of the significant, hot-button programs Republicans were attempting to shut down through the budget managed to be included in the final agreement including the controversial issue of continuation of funding for Planned Parenthood.
While Congress and the Obama administration pat each other on the backs, however, let’s not forget what first got us into this situation.
Like a playground fight, it started with the two parties just staring each other down, both making outlandish and unreasonable demands. Both sides knew, realistically, that their proposed budget was not going to pass, yet that didn’t stop them from insisting on their version until the 11th hour, until all of America was bracing for a shutdown.
It is a very good thing, for the American people and the American economy, that the federal government did not shut its doors. However, we should not have gotten to the point where a shutdown was a very real worry.
It all amounts to a political standoff that, in reality, accomplished nothing but caused undue stress across the nation. There’s no one person or party to blame, but it falls on all the career politicians setting stakes in Washington. It often seems that this political banter, this political back-and-forth is nothing more than a game to politicians, when it actually means a family’s well-being or an American’s financial stability. These are very real matters and Washington, D.C., for all its high-powered rhetoric, seems to have forgotten that.
While having the government up and running is great, it never should have had to consider shutting down.