As Congress gets back to work this week, it's facing a nearly unprecedented number of deadlines and political dramas. The government needs to be funded by Sept. 30, but Congress is way behind in passing the series of spending bills necessary to pass a full budget. Instead, lawmakers will probably try to pass a short-term budget extension that basically keeps spending levels the same as last year and keeps the government open.So here we go again with the possible government shutdown. This time, some of the Republican culture warriors want to eliminate Planned Parenthood's appropriation, something that would be possible had there been separate funding bills for each department. In the presence of a looming continuing resolution, that's a hill the Republican leadership doesn't want to die on.
But even that's going to be tough. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are using the budget process to push their ideological agendas on everything from abortion to military spending to international nuclear deals. And there's a presidential campaign going on, complicating the decisions and actions of the five senators running for the White House. (And in the Senate, sometimes it only takes one.)
The once-normal process of approving a stopgap bill that keeps the federal government operating on the previous year’s fiscal budget has become anything but routine during House Speaker John A. Boehner’s five-year tenure. This latest showdown, like its recent predecessors, is another example that brinksmanship — involving countdown clocks and advisories to federal workers about the possible expiration of funding on Sept. 30 — is the new normal.And how things change, years ago President Reagan plopped a thick continuing resolution on the desk during a State of the Union and threatened to veto the next one he got, now Our President gets away with threatening to veto continuing resolutions with the wrong kind of favors-for-favors in it and blaming Congress for shutting the government down.
Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that there was “widespread support” among House Republicans to approve a stopgap bill well into the fall to allow for more time to negotiate final budget numbers with President Obama. But, he acknowledged, GOP leaders have not decided how to handle the large demand for language in the funding plan that would strip Planned Parenthood of the small amount of federal funds it receives each year following the release of undercover videos alleging that some agents of the group sell body parts of aborted fetuses.
Editorial writers for the Baltimore Sun don't like the idea of another shutdown, never mind the political hay that's made or not.
The 2013 disruption proved costly to this state's economy, reducing Maryland's job growth to among the worst in the country. The same would happen again — unless some kind of stopgap resolution is approved.How DARE you peasants object to bipartisan fleecing of taxpayers. High Public Officials have to keep paying their off-the-books nannies and gardeners.
But there's a poison pill in the legislative unfinished business that will cause real hardship nationwide.
Six years ago Congress thought it was giving railroads enough time to [install positive train control on all trunk lines] and railroads did not object then to that deadline. But implementation has been a disaster. The technology being put in place is largely new. [The Federal Railroad Administration] was slow to issue necessary rules. Signal engineers able to put all the pieces together have been in short supply. And then for more than a year everything ground to a halt because the Federal Communications Commission would not issue permits for construction of radio towers and antennae.BNSF, and the other major railroads, will comply with the law by ceasing operation of trains carrying hazardous cargoes, and commuter trains on lines not yet equipped with positive train control. That includes several busy Chicago routes.
Further, as [BNSF chief executive Carl] Ice points out to [South Dakota senator John] Thune, PTC is full of bugs as railroads roll it out on their networks. Says Ice: “We are seeing the PTC system trigger unnecessary braking events in which trains are stopped with a full-service brake application. This means that significant work has to occur before the train can re-start. These kinds of delays are numerous and cumulatively consume railroad capacity.”
What railroads have sought is an extension of the deadline, something that Congress has thus far refused to act upon because the votes to permit an extension aren’t there. Now the industry is beginning to say fine, we will not disobey the law and as a result we will be able to offer only a fraction of the service our customers depend upon.
Carl Ice has now publicly laid out a disastrous outcome that neither voters nor shippers can countenance means that the problem will be resolved either by a suspension of the law or an amendment to it pushing back the deadline. Or maybe not. Who knows?Developing.
Our political system is full of hypocrites who pass laws yet will not deal with the consequences of those laws. This situation cries for clarity and level-headedness, and we’re seeing little of it in Washington. You wonder why Republicans are flocking to The Donald. This is why. Everyone is hiding from reality—everyone, that is, except a few brave souls such as Carl Ice, who is unafraid to say the ball is in Washington’s court and that we as citizens may end up burning our furniture in the fireplace to stay warm.