This Bill Would Make Private Individuals, Businesses Pay the Price of Government Shutdowns

The Daily Signal | 2/12/2019 | Staff
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Jacob Paolillo is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.

Jonathan Zalewski is a visiting legal fellow and Koch associate at The Heritage Foundation.

Years - Government - Times - Disagreements - Funding

Over the past 40 years, the federal government has shut down 21 times due to political disagreements over funding.

Most of America, including the government itself, goes largely unaffected by a government shutdown. But for federal workers who are furloughed or required to work without a paycheck, a lapse in government funding can cause financial problems, leading some to default on debt or miss rent payments. This can result in real hardships up to and including eviction.

Blame - Lawmakers - Government

The blame for this rests squarely on the lawmakers who fail to fund the government.

Remarkably, though, some Democrats in Congress believe that private citizens and businesses should bear the ill consequences of government shutdowns that put furloughed federal workers in financially precarious positions.

Month - Sen - Brian - Schatz - D-Hawaii

Earlier this month, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, along with 30 Democratic co-sponsors, introduced the Federal Employees Civil Relief Act. This bill, if passed, would hold private citizens and businesses criminally liable for attempting to enforce certain debts against unpaid federal workers during a government shutdown.

Specifically, it would make it a federal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, for property owners, mortgage companies, and student loan servicers to enforce lease and loan obligations against federal workers without a court order if the federal workers are financially affected by a shutdown.

Buck - Responsibility - Congress—who - Workers—to - Citizens

This would essentially pass the buck of responsibility from Congress—who should be paying federal workers—to private citizens and businesses.

Legislation like this, which criminalizes perfectly innocent conduct—such as collecting rent—raises serious concerns about Congress’ propensity to misuse and abuse the criminal law in an attempt to solve every problem in our society, as Heritage Foundation scholars have written and discussed elsewhere.

Policies

Rather than devising sensible policies to fix...
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