Congressional drama and deadlines 

Filed under COLUMNISTS, OPINION

Julianne Malveaux 01Congress must approve a budget by October 1 or our government will shut down.  That means people will not be paid and technically, government departments will cease to operate.  Social Security payments, veterans’ benefits, and more will cease to be paid.

Whenever we get to this brinkmanship, Congress approves a continuing resolution, which provides temporary funding at current levels, or enforces an across-the-board reduction of a certain percent.

The bottom line is that lawmakers figure out how to apply a Band-Aid to a hemorrhaging leg.  The problem does not go away because it keeps us going for a few minutes.

Why are House Republicans so determined to have a budget showdown?  Part of it is their determination to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  They refuse to understand that, in addition to providing abortion services, Planned Parenthood provides basic women’s health services, including gynecological examinations.  They are providing these health services in areas where they are not available.  Abortions represent just a fraction of what they offer.  But based on a set of bogus videos, some Republicans are using those videos to posture about abortion.

Ceiling will rise
In order to accept the Obama budget, Congress will have to lift the debt ceiling.  They don’t want to.  The Republican rap is we need more fiscal discipline. Many of these folks will take to the floor of Congress or of the Senate to rail about irresponsible spending.

This is an opportunity for many Republicans who are presidential candidates to show their stuff.

They pray that their passionate nonsense will make the evening news.  If they have the slightest bit of sense, they will help pass this budget.  Perhaps after they’ve blown off enough steam, they will.

The discussion about the debt ceiling and the division between domestic and military spending is a recurrent one.  Both Congress and the Senate have mixed feelings around the deal that our country has cut with Iran. We have limited Iran’s ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and we have imposed some checks and balances to keep them to their word.

How do you cut a deal with the devil?  Can we really trust Iraq?  After much contemplation, I am persuaded that the Iran deal is better than anything we’ve had until now.

We’re going to deal with a free-lance devil, or a devil with a contract. We have significant, though not perfect, limits to Iran’s arms accumulation, so we’ve cut a deal with the devil with a contract.

That’s not perfect but it is better than nothing.

Won’t pass
It is almost impossible that Congress will pass the twelve bills that are part of our budget.  Given that, the next best choice is to maintain the status quo, or impose a percentage cut until a budget deal is cut.  Planned Parenthood and Iran should not even be part of the conversation.

There are folks who understand that the budget, or some version of it, needs to be approved by October 1.  They just don’t plan to sacrifice their dramatic moment by doing the right thing.

Will government shut down?  Only if presidential posturers decide that their drama trumps an important deadline.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer.

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