Congress can and should end government shutdowns for good

Washington Examiner | 2/9/2018 | Kurt Couchman
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With government funding expiring yet again this week, it’s time to get real on shutdowns. When used as “leverage,” they become counterproductive, political hostage-taking that almost always backfires. They are also completely unnecessary.

A budget impasse doesn’t have to mean that government stops working. The alternative is a continuation of the status quo through an “automatic continuing resolution.” If appropriations legislation can’t be agreed to, programs would simply carry on as before.

Concept - National - Conference - State - Legislatures

This isn’t a new concept. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 22 states partially shut down without a budget agreement. Twelve continue existing activities at previous levels. Others rely on legislature-approved temporary appropriations measures, like Congress does.

Do automatic continuing resolutions keep states from doing budgets and updating programs? No, quite the opposite. When shutdown looms, members of Congress and many state legislators face a tough choice between accepting a likely bloated appropriations package or being responsible for shutting down important services to their fellow citizens.

States - Resolutions - Choice - Funding - Appropriations

In states with automatic continuing resolutions, however, the choice is between the existing funding and an appropriations package that majorities consider an improvement. That’s a big difference, and it improves both policy and process while reducing partisanship.

Automatic continuing resolutions reduce the stakes, which draws much of the venom out of the process. Instead of everything being up in the air, and instead of encouraging multiple factions to push for long-shot wins, it narrows the range of possibility and makes it easier to legislate.

Agreement - Calamity - Appropriations - Deal - Spending

If there isn't agreement, no great calamity happens. To pass, an appropriations deal must be better than status-quo spending.

Even so, there is continued pressure to set budgets and revise programs. An automatic continuing resolution at current levels wouldn’t adjust for changes in inflation and population, creating an incentive to deal for politicians who want spending to keep up. In addition, programs...
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