By tradition, Congress passes 12 bills every year that make up the annual federal budget. Normally, the bills are passed in mid-April, well before the start of the government’s new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
For the past four years, however, Congress has failed to pass a budget and the American government has been financed through a legislative device known as a continuing resolution. Continuing resolutions authorize the government to continue spending at current, increased or decreased levels for a specific period of time.
The current budget crisis is the result of the expiration of one continuing resolution on Sept. 30, the last year of the government’s fiscal year and the Congress’ failure to pass either a new budget or a new continuing resolution that would fund the government starting Oct. 1.
With no spending authority from Congress, the government must shut down all non-essential operations. Hundreds of thousands of government employees will not report for work and will not be paid during the shutdown. The military, border patrol and Coast Guard will continue operating, but the men and women in those services will likely not be paid until the government reopens.
The United States government went through a government shutdown for 21 days in late 1995 and early 1996. The effects were limited because Congress had already passed some of the 12 budget bills. This year, however, Congress has passed none of the bills, so the effects of shutdown would be widespread.
Budget-by-continuing-resolution has created a series of crises over the past few years more befitting a Banana Republic than a superpower with the world’s largest economy. The same could be said for the chaos involved in raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
Congress, however, has chosen chaos over order because Republicans believe last-minute brinksmanship over the budget or debt ceiling gives them greater negotiating power with the Democratic president and senate.
The country of Egypt is in chaos because factions within Egypt do not like the president that was democratically elected. The situation there is not unlike that in Washington, where factions within the Republican Party do not like the democratically elected American president. Compromise and negotiation are the American way, the democratic way, the way this democracy has worked for more than 200 years. If you are tired of the drama, tell your congressman and tell your senator.