End the blame game to halt US government shutdown


In this corner, angry Democrats are calling the closure of most federal government operations affecting the health, welfare and security of this nation “the Trump shutdown,” after the 45th president of the United States and the party he represents.

In that corner, angry Republicans are labeling the three-day-old halt to many important U.S. government operations affecting the lives of millions “the Schumer shutdown” after Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The Senate minority leader has been a chief negotiator in the ongoing and hotly contentious federal budget battle.

From our corner, however, we see the government shutdown as a total breakdown of responsible governance. In its place over the past week, Americans have been witnesses to juvenile antics of political gamesmanship and one-upmanship by the leaders they had entrusted to keep the ship of the American state safely afloat.

To prevent that ship from sinking even deeper, we call on all sides of the debate – congressional Democrats, Republicans and Donald Trump himself – to end the stalemate and adopt a compromise stopgap budget measure as speedily as possible, ideally by today.

The defunding of so-called “nonessential” government services at the stroke of midnight Friday climaxed more than a week of raucous rancor. It stemmed from largely partisan disputes over elements to be included in the continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government through mid-February.

They included disputes over the status of people affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, and therefore whether those covered under the program should face deportation or have a path to permanent residency or citizenship. In addition, wrangling dragged on over allocation of funding to build a border wall with Mexico, a signature policy promise of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

LEADERSHIP IS LACKING

As of Sunday night, the congressional fussing, feuding and fighting festered over those and other controversial items in the voluminous resolution. Now that the first full workday has dawned on the partial paralysis of American government, the blame game must cease.

We first call on the president to demonstrate true leadership by working constructively, not destructively, as has been his natural inclination throughout much of the crisis. On several occasions, the president initially has given full-throttle support for compromises only to renege on them hours later.

One was an offer by Schumer to provide funding for the border wall with Mexico (forget that the president repeatedly told Americans that Mexico would pay for that edifice) as a means to end the stalemate. But the leader of Democrats in the upper chamber of Congress said on the Senate floor Saturday that the chief executive later rejected the deal.

The president and many of his easily impressionable Republican devotees in Congress apparently cannot see the scope of potential harm that prolonging the shutdown will produce.

For starters, hundreds of thousands of employees now face furlough, including 95 percent of the workforce in the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Environmental Protection Agency and more than 50 percent of the staff of the Department of Defense, according to federal contingency plans.

IMPACT COULD BE SEVERE

The deleterious effects of such massive cuts will be felt quickly and painfully.

Amid one of the most widespread and deadly flu epidemics in modern American history, draconian reductions in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention translates into a slowdown in efforts to monitor and fight the outbreak.

At the EPA, inspections at hundreds of drinking-water systems, chemical facilities and hazardous-waste sites will grind to a halt, threatening community health and hygiene.

For public education from kindergarten to graduate school, payments to school districts, colleges and universities and vocational rehabilitation agencies are expected to be severely curtailed.

Clearly the impact of sharp cuts to these and many other so-called “nonessential service” providers would have negative consequences on countless Americans and on the U.S. economy.

Toward avoiding worst-case scenarios, no energies can be wasted now toward putting a lid on the shutdown. At press time Sunday night, a compromise deal was in the works, and a vote on it was tentatively planned sometime after 1 a.m. We hope that effort succeeded and that the U.S. House convenes expeditiously today to approve and send it to President Trump for his cooperative signature.

After all, the longer this government-wide shutdown continues, the deeper Americans’ trust in their most foundational institutions will erode.

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