Shutdown showdown

Shutdown showdown

April 9th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Whatever Congress did or didn't do by midnight last night in either facing or dodging its financial responsibilities, the threat of a government shutdown was proof that many lawmakers are disgustingly irresponsible.

The Constitution says in Article I, Section 8, "The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States ... ."

That Congress has not always been responsible in its duty is indicated by the fact that it has run up a national debt of more than $14 trillion!

That's the long-range view.

But the short-range view is that while Congress has the responsibility of providing the finances for the delegated functions of the U.S. government - in both domestic and foreign affairs - it has not done so in a wise and timely fashion.

With some big decisions by Congress required by midnight last night, there were no legal options but for lawmakers to rush through some new appropriations to keep governmental functions going or to shut down some federal operations - though vital services were to continue regardless.

While Washington clearly does many things never authorized by the Constitution, Congress' constitutional obligations are so important that federal lawmakers should never have waited until a last-minute deadline to do their financial duty.

Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, may argue about how much should be appropriated and for what purposes - making their decisions wisely and intelligently or foolishly and carelessly. In the current showdown over spending, for example, it should be noted that one of the key obstacles has been Democrats' reprehensible rejection of GOP demands to cut unconstitutional funding for abortion provider Planned Parenthood - and Democrats' desire for higher spending overall than what Republicans are willing to accept in a time of crippling debt.

But such disputes should not have caused the legislative branch to fail to provide for governmental operations.

An understanding of that basic responsibility was lost on too many members of Congress, who wanted to play a game of budgetary "chicken" instead of perform their duties.

With members of both parties having sworn to uphold the Constitution, it is appalling that many refused to put the national interest first.

There unfortunately have been several shutdowns in the past, the most recent ones in 1995 and 1996. Solutions were worked out on those occasions. But that adult men and women failed in their duty, then and now, is outrageous.

This morning, we should know whether a government shutdown was averted at the last minute.

But either way, Congress has not behaved responsibly.