Longest shutdown causing pain

To the editor:

Federal government shutdowns can cause pain. Essential employees are still required to work but don’t get paid. Non-essential personnel stay at home and agency activities and services come to a halt.

Shutdowns have occurred when Congress fails to approve funding for government operations and agencies. Since 1976, there have been 22 gaps in budget funding which lasted only one day. Since 1990, the practice has been to shut down the government for funding gaps. Shutdowns have lasted anywhere from three days to the recent shutdown which is the longest in history.

Up until now lengthy shutdowns have mainly occurred when both the Democrats and the Republicans could not come to agreements about the funding of government services (21 days in 1996) and health care (16 days in 2013). Never has a government shutdown been about something inhuman such as a “wall.” Never has a president said, “I would be happy to shut down the government” as Donald Trump has.

When the president and Congress are unable to resolve disagreements over budget items before the existing budget cycle ends, a government shutdown can occur. Trump’s shutdown could be thought of as the lack of adequate funding for the Department of Homeland Security but unfortunately, additional federal departments are being affected.

Government shutdowns have not only the effect of disrupting the lives of those who aren’t getting paychecks to support their families, they effect the safety of all Americans. Does the “need” for a wall justify putting our homeland and our health at risk? FBI agents catch criminals. TSA agents stop terrorists from entering the United States. Food inspectors make sure the food we eat will not make us sick.

According to the Constitution, Congress has the “power of the purse.” Both the House and Senate must pass appropriation bills before they are sent to the President. If the president signs the bills, they become law. If the president is not in agreement and vetoes them, they go back to Congress. Both houses can override a veto by a two-thirds vote.

Shutdowns should be a last resort when there are differences over how to spend the taxpayer’s money. They should be resolved swiftly. If the president refuses to accept program funding, Congress should do its job and use its power to get the government working again.

Empathy is required for the families of those effected by a shutdown. We live in a democracy and should care about each other.

Jan Koch,

Chair, Democratic Party of Shawano County