Here we go again.
Our current continuing resolution is going to expire at midnight this Friday, and that means we are staring in the face of another government shutdown. One would think this fire drill would get annoying, but every few months, the same sirens start blaring.
For the seventh time this year, Congress has waited until the last minute to pass a bill that keeps the government funded. We passed four continuing resolutions in the spring to complete Fiscal Year 2011, and this will be our third continuing resolution for Fiscal Year 2012 since the Senate has again failed to produce a budget. Each and every time, panic ensues as the threat of a shutdown becomes more of a reality. It raises the question, “How many times do we have to go through this until we to stop the madness?”
In Oklahoma City, we have Tinker Air Force Base, a Federal Aviation Administration facility, and all types of government contracts. Thousands of people in my community depend upon reliable funding for the federal government, either directly or indirectly. This is the case across the rest of our country as well. When the federal government shuts down, it hurts families, businesses, and financial markets. Not to mention that it will financially cost the government more to shut down and restart government operations, rather than supposedly saving us money.
This is the “song that never ends” in D.C. But it is time to stop the music. Last week, I introduced the Government Shutdown Prevention Act of 2011, which would bring some sanity to the federal budgeting process. Under my legislation, each time the current continuing resolution or budget expires, a new continuing resolution kicks in automatically to keep the government running. However, there is a twist that benefits every taxpaying American. Any new continuing resolution will include a 1 percent across-the-board spending cut to motivate Congress to pass a standard budget. If lawmakers continue to abdicate their duty, additional 1 percent spending cuts will happen every three months. Under this new legislation, if Congress continues its wayward budgeting ways, government could be cut by 4 percent in just one year’s time.
It is time to start using incentives to change the spending culture in Washington. We should move from default spending increases to default spending cuts. At the same time, lawmakers should be motivated to do their job of passing an actual full-year budget that lays out a strategy for the country, or their favorite programs must take an indiscriminate hit.
Congress will rarely do the right thing unless forced by someone or something. It procrastinates, skips deadlines, and otherwise causes everyone to start getting nervous. With the possibility of another government shutdown coming in the next 36 hours, we can finally bring a little accountability to this institution by giving some certainty to the people it serves. The Government Shutdown Prevention Act will take the risk out of appropriations negotiations, remove the political theater, and save everyone a whole lot of stress. Let’s make this the last shutdown showdown.
— Rep. James Lankford represents Oklahoma’s 5th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.