In the days of old Congress used to pass annual budgets. This process generally started with a recommendation from the President. Next the proposed budget passed through the House, then the Senate. Finally, if he agreed with it, the President signed off on it.
That was then. Today, for more than a few years now, different appropriations have been cobbled together for this and that, rather than passed as a whole. Technically, this is permissible under Article I, Section 7 of the old Constitution. It’s my quibble that the old way was better, smoother. At any rate, at least it’s done. Until it’s not.
Last Friday/Saturday at midnight the Congress failed to agree on the latest stopgap spending bill. As such, “your” government has no budget for the coming fiscal year – running on empty.
A House-passed stopgap bill that would avoid a government shutdown fizzled out in the Senate late Friday night, leaving Congress negotiating frantically as the midnight deadline to fund the government passed.
The measure failed in a procedural vote by a 50 to 49 margin. Five Democrats — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Doug Jones of Alabama and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — had backed it. Four Republicans — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah — opposed it. So did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for procedural reasons.
As nearly all Democrats and some Republicans opposed the measure that failed to work its way through Congress on Friday, lawmakers saw government funding lapse, at least temporarily. The proposal that failed in the Senate would have funded the government through Feb. 16 and reauthorized the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years.
As far as I’m concerned, they could permanently shutter the whole operation forever. Fear not, they won’t. In fact, much (most?) of the government will operate pretty much as “normal” for the duration. Most people will notice no difference. I’m releasing a video for FP tomorrow about this and a few related matters. Watch it.
This last happened in 2013. Before that, it was a more pronounced shortage in 1995. We somehow survived those episodes. The sky will not fall. For now, just know that “your” elected representatives are a band of utterly incompetent fools. You should remember this come the next election. You probably won’t though I’ll drop a reminder.
Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind
–Running on Empty, Jackson Browne, 1977.