The frustrating part of the last-minute brinksmanship to avoid a federal government shutdown is that the main sticking points are things about which both sides seem to agree.
Republicans and Democrats ought to be able to cobble together a majority in favor of renewing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. They ought to be able to agree to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.
More importantly, they ought to be able to hammer out compromises that allow passage of a federal budget and that avoid continuing resolutions and the seemingly endless dancing on the edge of a fiscal cliff.
At press time, both sides had yet to work out a temporary deal to avoid a government shutdown late Friday. We hope that has changed. We also hope the president will avoid tweets that seem to undermine deals already in place, such as Thursday, when he tweeted that CHIP should not be part of a 30-day extension. A deal already was in place to include a six-year extension as part of a compromise.
Time is running out, not only on the matter of avoiding a shutdown, but regarding opportunities for real budget compromises this year. With midterm elections beginning to dominate political positioning, the chances of a bipartisan solution already are dimming.
A shutdown would be the worst of all outcomes, with its debilitating effects on everything from national parks to defense. But another short-term extension of current spending isn’t ideal, either. It would keep the government operating in the short term, but kick the federal budget down the road one more time.
DACA is a vital program that expresses the nation’s collective compassion for people brought to this country as children, through no choice of their own. Congress holds the power to bring certainty to the lives of these people, who are American in every sense, but who face the real threat of deportation.
A bipartisan discussion on this collapsed over vulgar language the president was said to have used in closed-door discussions.
CHIP, a program championed by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, provides health coverage desperately needed for children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford private insurance.
Programs such as these should not be used as political wedges.43 comments on this story
We expect politics to include posturing and leveraging as all sides work toward a compromise. But it shouldn’t take the threat of a shutdown to bring sides together on issues for which there seems to be widespread support.
And there is no honor in ruling the nation through an endless series of budget extensions when a comprehensive budget that sets policy and brings certainty is needed. Decisions are being made against the calculus of which side has the most to lose by allowing government funding to expire, not by considering the lives of those potentially affected by funding cuts.
Surely, the public servants Americans elected can do better.