Thursday, January 03, 2019


In The Atlantic, Annie Lowrey reminds us that government shutdowns can be prevented by law:
... Congress could shut down the government shutdown option, forever.

It could do this by implementing something called an automatic continuing resolution provision, which legislators from both sides of the aisle have advanced numerous times over the past 30 years. Right now, when Congress cannot agree on how to spend money, it passes a continuing resolution, or CR, which continues federal agencies’ financing for a given period of time. Automatic CRs would absolve Congress from the responsibility of passing new CRs, preventing both the quick financing lapses and big, painful shutdowns.

... CRs are already common, necessary part of the budget process: Congress has used them more than 100 times in recent decades, with CRs keeping the government open for full years a few times. Several states have automatic CR-type provisions, and President Barack Obama signed a military-only automatic CR into law back in 2013.
I'm for automatic CRs, and I'm also for anything that will end the debt-ceiling brinkmanship we've faced periodically in recent years. In 2013, Democrats proposed a way to avoid debt ceiling crises:
Three Democratic senators, led by Charles E. Schumer of New York, introduced legislation Tuesday to permanently install a new procedure on the debt limit that would all-but-eliminate the threat of default.

The bill would make permanent a rule devised in 2011 by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that uses resolutions of disapproval to enable the president to extend the debt limit while also technically allowing minority lawmakers to vote against that authorization— a maneuver McConnell said was designed to be used on a case-by-case basis.

... The bill would allow the president to ask for a debt ceiling increase when the government got to within $100 billion of its limit and would require Congress to vote on a disapproval resolution within 15 days of the president's request.
I'm not sure that would really work with a president like Trump, who would undoubtedly prefer a crisis, and thus wouldn't extend the debt limit. (I'm not sure any other Republican president would, either.) But I appreciate the effort.

I think Democrats running for president in 2020 should champion ideas like these. They might not be key parts of any candidate's platform, but they'd send a signal that's a core part of the Democratic message (government does things the public wants done, so it should do them well) in a way that might seem non-ideological and appealing to voters who aren't partisans. Ordinary Americans don't like government shutdowns. Some have partisan views on them, but others just regard them as failures by our elected officials, who are seen as immature brats squabbling in a sandbox. Maybe a few of those Obama-Trump voters every Democratic presidential aspirant is supposed to covet would be impressed if Democratic presidential candidates said, "We have a way to prevent this from happening again, so let's do it."

Trump has figured out Joe Sixpack identity politics; Democrats are unlikely to beat him at that. But maybe a few simple ideas that sound like plain common sense will appeal to some of those voters. It's worth a try.

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