Congress has done the bare minimum to postpone a potential shutdown.
Whether by divine intervention, a sacrificial resignation, a spasm of common sense, terrible poll numbers, or public pressure (or perhaps all of the above), Congress narrowly managed to avoid shutting down the government. It did so by passing a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) late last night. The government is now funded through December 11th, which means that unless something changes, we’ll be preparing for another possible shutdown in 9-10 weeks. In other words, Congress still hasn’t done its job. This is no cause for celebration.
Instead, this should be a call to email for anyone who occupies a part of Main Street. If we need Papal visits and leadership resignations to pass CRs (which do nothing more than continue the status quo) we are in deep, deep trouble. Thankfully, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and soon-to-be-former Speaker Boehner have realized this as well and are preparing to negotiate with the White House and Congressional Democrats to set spending levels and priorities for the next two fiscal years. Let’s hope they are successful, and that they can secure a deal on raising the debt ceiling while they are at it.
Unfortunately, even if they are successful, they must convince a majority of their colleagues to vote for the deal. Saddled with (arguably) the most dysfunctional group of legislators in U.S. history, this could prove to be a Herculean task.
And this is where you come in. If the threat to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding made you angry (or at least annoyed enough to write your Representative), then stay angry. Do not count to 11. Channel your anger and disappointment into more civic engagement over the next 9-10 weeks. I know this is asking a lot. Trying to get Congress to do its job is more tiring than being the parent of a toddler, and more frustrating than herding cats. But we need to tell our Senators and Representatives from both parties that we want a sensible spending deal that ensures government continuity for the next two fiscal years. And if you still have the energy, and want your elected officials to step rather than stumble over this very low bar, then ask them to cut a deal that also reforms and replenishes our highway trust fund without increasing the deficit. In other words, keep telling Congress to do its job.