As we learned in 2013, the Republican Party’s reckless government shutdowns can be very bad for America. In November of that year, the Office of Management and Budget listed just some of the deleterious effects of their October shutdown, which was borne of an extremist right-wing temper tantrum over the prospect of millions of Americans receiving health care.
The Tea Party’s hostage-taking efforts, according to an OMB report, resulted in a total of 6.6 million days of lost work for federal employees — a total cost of $2 billion dollars. In addition, fees went uncollected, IRS enforcement did not exist, and the federal government had to pay extra interest on payments that were late because of the shutdown. An estimated 120,000 fewer private sector jobs were created during the first two weeks of October, national parks and monuments were closed, federal loans were put on gold, tax refunds were delayed, health and safety inspections had to be canceled, and critical scientific research suffered.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has a solution, and he is currently seeking co-sponsors for a bill that would “shut down the shutdowns.” Grayson’s bill would “automatically extend existing appropriations levels for another fiscal year whenever Congress fails to fund agencies before their money expires,” according to the Washington Post.
“It changes the default from shutdown to the same budget,” Grayson told The Post on Tuesday. “I don’t think the founders ever intended us to face one shutdown after another.”
Republicans are crying foul, given that they have mastered the art of shutting down the government in recent history, employing the tactic during both the Clinton and especially the Obama Administrations.
This year, Republicans were prepared to defund the Department of Homeland Security unless President Obama agreed to abandon his plans to address immigration by executive order. If this shutdown occurred, those who were not considered vital would be furloughed, while vital employees would be forced to work without pay.
Initially, a one-week funding extension was passed but Republicans finally allowed a “clean,” or conditionless, bill to pass — one that would fund the department through the end of the fiscal year.
“The evil dynamic of all this is that, over and over again, we’re confronted with the same two choices: Pass a bill or see the government shut down,” Grayson said. “It represents a risk to the country.”
As Republicans have attempted to use shutdowns to get their way in 1995, 1996, and 2013, and are continuing to demonstrate that they are willing to quite literally take the country hostage to get their way, it is unlikely that Grayson will be able to gain enough support from the Right to push his bill through.
However, it is possible that he would gain some Republican support for his effort. Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) introduced a similar bill in 2013, and former Congressman George Gekas (R-PA) attempted to avert future shutdowns, as well. Eighteen Republicans co-sponsored Lankford’s bill, while thirty supported Gekas’, so bipartisan support for the bill is not entirely out of the question.
Will Grayson garner enough support to pass this necessary step toward responsible governance? Let’s hope so — for the sake of America’s future. We cannot afford to continue to allow Republicans to hold our government hostage in order to implement their extremist agenda.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.