Op-ed: Backing the government’s action to end shutdowns forever

The longest partial government shutdown in United States history came to an end on Jan. 25, but not without introducing the threat of a second shutdown. Thankfully, after a 35-day period of scathing partisan disagreement, Democrats and Republicans encouraged legislative proposals to prevent further shutdowns.  

College students across the country, including those at Emerson, should actively support these motions alongside Congress. American citizens’ stability and livelihood simply cannot afford to be threatened again because of politicians’ inability to reach a consensus.

The previous shutdown hindered some students’ financial aid, their families’ jobs, and their overall financial security. Emerson graduate student Kenya Hunter had to conserve food stamps over winter break because the shutdown temporarily closed the program. Across the country 800,000 federal workers missed a paycheck, and multiple government organizations temporarily closed.

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More and more lawmakers are supporting ending shutdowns because these strategic closures have become increasingly harmful to the public. Of the ten shutdowns since 1976 that have forced workers on furlough, three have occurred since 1995 and two since 2013. The Congressional Research Service also showed that shutdowns hurt public perception of trust in Congress.

If Congress doesn’t agree on a funding bill by Feb. 15, a second shutdown will commence. President Trump even presented the possibility of declaring a “national emergency” if he doesn’t receive the $5.7 billion he demands for his border wall. This would give the president extended powers that he could use to exploit to further his border security agenda.

The legislative proposals introduce alternative avenues to manipulate the national budget when a funding deadline is missed, rather than completely eliminating funding as current shutdowns do.

Earlier this month, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced the Stop Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage in the Coming Years Act, which aptly shortens to the “Stop STUPIDITY Act.” The proposal intends to stop rewarding members of Congress and the president for keeping the government closed by only withdrawing funding from the legislative and executive branches, putting politicians in the same position as federal workers when there is a stalemate in Washington, D.C.

At first glance, this solution seems intelligent––take the money away from the politicians who are unable to reach a decision. But the resolution would actually affect politicians who need to rely on congressional funding to sustain their livelihood. Those who do not rely on congressional funding for their livelihood are commonly members who fit the traditional political demographic—middle-aged, white, and male. Many chose to work in the private sector before making their way to public office for financial stability, according to Forbes.

However, the newly elected Congress from the 2018 midterms includes more women, people of color, low-income individuals, and millennials than ever before. Passing this resolution would introduce the possibility of continued financial insecurity even after getting elected to some of the highest offices in the country, and it could dissuade individuals from running. Legislation to eliminate “stupid” shutdowns should be passed, but it should not be done at the expense of diversity at the Capitol.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has put forth his own resolution to permanently end shutdowns every year for the last nine years. The End Government Shutdowns Act would implement an “automatic continuing resolution” that would cut government spending incrementally the longer Congress takes to pass an agreeable bill.

However, this proposal enables politicians who wish for more spending cuts in various sectors to try to hold back Congress from reaching a conclusion. I would not put it beneath future politicians to encourage disagreement in Congress to forward their own agenda. The easy avenue this proposal creates for lowering spending is a pitfall that cannot go unnoticed.

In addition to the aforementioned proposals, more ideas are floating around in Washington as politicians desperately try to work with one another and President Trump before the rapidly approaching deadline. But in the political havoc that continues to pervade the House and Senate floor, these proposals can easily get lost in the noise.

It’s commendable that some members of Congress are willing to concede portions of their proposal to reach some kind of agreement in the remaining two weeks, but selective support is not enough. All policymakers should put the goal to end future shutdowns at the forefront of their mission. And Americans everywhere, including us here at Emerson, should vocally advocate for this change until Congress creates a proposal that is strong enough to end shutdowns forever.

 

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