Last night the Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the government until November 18th. Sometime this week, the House will need to break out of their pro forma session to vote on that bill to avoid a government shutdown.
What does a government shutdown mean? A shutdown will be more like a government slow down. In other words, the government will still be able to perform its core functions, like those outlined in the Constitution. It’s some of the other powers that government has assumed over the years that might take a temporary hit.
During the 1995 shutdown, approximately 800,000 federal workers were initially furloughed. Given the growth of the federal workforce since then, today that number would likely be higher. Still, that leaves most of the federal workforce and military still working. In fact, the Department of Defense, power grid maintenance, border patrol, Coast Guard, air traffic controllers, inpatient and emergency outpatient medical care, and other vital services continued.
The United States is $14.7 trillion in debt, and according to a CBO report, the federal government ran a budget deficit of $132 billion, $41 billion more than the shortfall recorded for the same month a year ago.Heritage’s J.D. Foster explains:
With all the focus on legislative tactics, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the battle is between the modest spending cuts passed by the House and Senator Reid’s shamefully puny cuts. The issue is not whether the course of government will change dramatically. It won’t. President Obama and congressional Democrats already drove spending rapidly higher. Even under the House bill, spending would continue to grow substantially. This battle is only the first of many.
The budget aside, there are other national priorities that are falling by the wayside while Congress focuses on a budget that should have been dealt with last year. Unemployment remains stuck above 9 percent, American men and women are at war in Afghanistan, U.S. forces remain in Iraq, the United States is engaged in Libya and energy prices are soaring. The next budget process is already underway and Congress should be focused on creating the conditions for job growth and a stronger economic recovery. In short, there is other work to be done.
Perhaps if President Obama were more willing to lead in 2010, when his party first abdicated its responsibility to pass a budget, Congress and the American people would not be where we are today – staring a partial government shutdown straight in the eye, all while trillions of dollars in debt await future generations. Majority Leader Reid and President Obama now must put politics aside, agree to modestly cut spending, move the process forward.