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Citizens, soldiers beware: Sequestration may strike again

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

September is likely to be a memorable month in Congress. Unfortunately, not in a good way.

There are only 12 legislative days when the House and Senate are both scheduled to be in session after their return to Washington on Sept. 5. So far the House has passed four appropriations bills, including defense, with eight remaining.

The Senate has passed zero, and also has not passed a budget resolution to set spending levels for their 12 bills.

On Sept. 29, the Department of the Treasury predicts the United States will no longer be able to pay our bills and will default unless the debt limit is raised.

On Sept. 30 at 11:59 p.m., fiscal year 2017 funding will end, and unless a continuing resolution is in place, the government will shut down at midnight.

Health care reform has not been enacted, tax reform is still in early negotiations, and infrastructure improvement is a distant hope. The defense authorization bill passed the House, but has not made it to the Senate floor.

Chairman McCain is in Arizona receiving treatment for brain cancer, so his ability to shepherd the bill on the Senate floor is in question.

Although the Senate did move some confirmations prior to leaving for August, the Army is still waiting for its secretary-nominee, Dr. Mark Esper, to be confirmed.

Even with the state of disarray in Congress, I predict there is a 95 percent chance they will pass a continuing resolution in time to prevent a government shutdown.

However, given how Washington has been in a state of “Bizarro-Palooza” world for the last year, there is a 4.5 percent chance that even with one-party control of the executive and legislative branches, a government shutdown could happen.

That would be an extremely sad state of affairs.

Savvy mathematicians will note that I left a half percent chance for a third outcome.

It is the optimist in me that permits hope to overcome cynicism.

There is the tiniest chance that at least the Defense Appropriations and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs Appropriations bills pass the House and Senate and be signed into law before Oct. 1.

That is a heavy lift, as it would probably require a “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2017” to be passed, raising the defense budget caps. Otherwise, sequestration would strike again and lop off any funds that exceed the caps.

Our soldiers deserve better. Our citizens deserve better.

Congress needs to do their job better by passing appropriations on time, instead of taking the August recess each year and then coming back to Washington and throwing their arms up because they ran out of time.

This is non-partisan – both parties need to do their job and fund the government.

Perhaps there should be a new law that for every day that a continuing resolution is in effect, Members of Congress forfeit a day of pay, and for every day the government is shut down, Members of Congress should lose a month of pay.

Maybe that would be incentive enough to do their job.

See you on the high ground.