Countdown to Nothing

Countdown to Nothing

Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,1 September 2015

Can you feel the excitement in the air? Me neither. But the calendar tells me we’re fast approaching something important. No, it’s not Labor Day and the end of summer (or even the return of Stephen Colbert to late night). I’m talking about the imminent return to Capitol Hill by the esteemed members of the 114th Congress. They’ve been at home in their districts, connecting with their constituents (and of course fundraising for their next campaigns) for over a month now. But pretty soon it will be back to business when Congress will have a whopping 12 or so days to pass a stopgap resolution to continue funding the government past October 1st. Don’t worry, though; they are all over it and there’s no danger we’ll have a government shutdown again. Except…

Congress really didn’t make any progress in budget negotiations during its 5-week recess, according to Congressional aides. Oh, and some nutjobs want to hold the budget hostage until Planned Parenthood is completely defunded. Plus there’s the omnipresent gridlock and unwillingness to, hmm, what’s that word again? Oh yes, govern. Or maybe — just maybe — Congress could decide the global markets have been shaky enough recently without the financial uncertainty raised by the specter of a government shutdown.

Are you slightly comforted by findings from the Pew Research Center showing that this Congress has been more productive than the previous two? Don’t be — the 112th and 113th Congresses were the least productive of the past 40 years. And it’s not like the stopgap funding measure will be Congress’ only task. Other totally unimportant things Congress has to do include making a decision on the Iran nuclear deal, doing something about cybersecurity, an overall spending plan including a debt-limit increase, and maybe fixing the highway trust fund.

The only reason I’m holding out any hope that Congress will avoid governing by crisis this budget go-round is the fear by those soon to be up for reelection that his or her respective parties would be blamed for a government shutdown (hint: most blame would go to the party that rhymes with Schmepublicans). The 18 House members who want to use a potential shutdown as a bargaining tool to defund a program dedicated to women’s health are probably counting on our ADD-riddled attention spans leaving us unable or unwilling to remember who governed the crappiest when we next return to the polls.

If you think this is a stupid way to operate or you want to share your opinions with your actual reps, it is extremely easy. Go here, get their email addresses and send them a message about what’s important to you. It will take you less time (and be far more satisfying) than it would to watch the bazillion candidates campaigning in Iowa, New Hampshire and beyond eat a variety of deep-fried foods and talk about leadership. Or you know, you can just keep complaining about how terrible the government is because that will totally make Congress act.

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