(Article first published as Who Wins if the Government Shuts Down? on Technorati.)
Though both Republicans and Democrats say they don’t want a government shutdown to occur, the likelihood of a shutdown is real. Most of the shutdowns in recent history have been relatively short. According to a Congressional Research Service report for Congress, released this month, from fiscal year 1981 to fiscal year 1995, we have had nine funding gaps, and the resulting shutdowns have lasted for durations of up to three full days. Subsequently, the longest shutdown in history lasted a full 21 days from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996.
According to the report, the laws that require suspension of government services when appropriations have not been enacted allow for exceptions for “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.” Hence, if a shutdown were to occur, essential services such as the following will stay in operation: border and coastal protection, law enforcement and criminal investigations, air traffic control and other transportation safety functions, and activities essential for ensuring continued public health and safety. On the other hand, those services considered nonessential and that are funded by annual appropriations would be affected, and we will feel the effects of such a shutdown.
Accordingly, both major political parties are trying to lay the blame on the other in the event that a shutdown occurs. Neither wants to look like the bad guys.
So if the government has to shut down, who wins?
To me, that’s a troubling question on several fronts. First of all, this is not a game where the goal of each team is to come out with the winning score. Secondly, the last time I checked, there was only one Congress of the United States. There may be two houses, and people with a number of different ideological convictions may be represented, but still there is only one Congress. This being a given that can’t be changed, it would be extremely naïve for any group within this one great body to think that it can push its agenda through with no tolerance for others with opposing views.
Another reason why I find the very question I posed as troubling is because if there is a government shutdown, it means that Congress has not done its job. Not the Republicans, not the Democrats, but Congress. For it will not have passed a responsible federal budget, or an interim continuing resolution, to keep the government in operation. So my answer to my question is that nobody wins if the government were to shut down. For how can we declare a winner in a case when all that has been accomplished is that Congress has failed to do its job?
Copyright ©2011 by Frank King. All rights reserved.