Sen. John Thune
One of the most fundamental jobs we have in Congress is to ensure that the federal government – including the military and the brave men and women who support it – is funded and operational. Unfortunately, Congress recently failed this basic legislative function because a significant number of my colleagues in the Senate chose to use the government’s operating status as a bargaining chip for an entirely unrelated and non-urgent campaign for federal policy on illegal immigration.
Congress has the constitutional responsibility to fund the government, and when it comes to the current congressional budget process, I’m not a fan. It’s broken, and it needs to be reformed. Rather than having a long-term funding plan in place that provides certainty to the American people and our military, it’s this flawed budget process that has led Congress to funding the government using one short-term bill after another without the opportunity to truly debate the merits of federal spending.
While it’s irresponsible to govern this way, and it’s something I’m working with my colleagues to fix, it’s far more irresponsible to hang a “closed” sign on the government’s door and leave our troops and children’s health care hanging in the wind simply because one political party didn’t get its way. We can do better than that.
During the recent government shutdown, critics were quick to point out that Republicans control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, which is accurate. In the Senate, though, we have 51 Republican votes, and for some of the bills we consider, including those to fund the government, the rules require 60 votes for them to advance. So, even if every Republican senator voted yes, we would still need nine Democrats to join us to send something to the president.
While a majority of the Senate, including a handful of Democrats, supported keeping the government open so negotiations on other issues could continue, more than 40 Democrats voted to shut it down. Thankfully, realizing a government shutdown would do nothing to advance their cause, cooler heads prevailed and they voted to reopen the government a few days later. I hope it’s a sign that Democrats are willing to work with us on the big issues of the day.
By obstructing at all costs, my Democrat colleagues have been missing opportunities to help deliver positive results to the American people. Tax reform is a great example. The immediate effects of it becoming law are undeniable, and I predict they will only get better. Business after business is announcing higher wages, bonuses, and other benefit enhancements for employees as a direct result of tax reform. This is a good law, and while Democrats could have joined us to make it even better, they decided to take their ball and go home, which was disappointing.
It’s not only tax reform, though. Think about everything else that could be stronger, including America’s confidence in Congress, if we worked together more often. Washington’s political scoreboard, which people inside the Capital Beltway are far too obsessed with these days, is meaningless to the rest of the country. Working together will deliver the best results and put points on the only scoreboard that really matters: the American people’s.