Congress' inaction does real damage (editorial)

Written before a government shutdown took effect, this editorial got several points wrong.

FIRST, the indignation about the supposedly intolerable delay in reauthorizing CHIP (Children's Health[care] Insurance Program) was a bit overdone in that a 6-year CHIP extension was included in the continuing resolution passed by the House of Representatives on Jan. 18. Also, the statement that this program "costs only $800 million" does not appear to be factual. Other sources indicate CHIP costs about $15 billion per year, mainly covered by the federal government.

SECOND, the editorial says CHIP is "only one of many debacles that shows how utterly broken Congress has become" without mentioning that the current minority party is blocking sorely needed defense budget increases with some 30% of the current fiscal year already over. This is no way to run the US military, as has been repeatedly noted by top defense officials in congressional testimony.

THIRD, the editorial implies that everyone involved is equally at fault. "At some point, Congress must remember how to compromise. It must remember that political victories are secondary to what's right for the American people." But this advice is primarily applicable for the current minority party, which precipitated a shutdown by demanding a "clean" (one-sided) DACA bill. The DACA issue has a March 5 deadline, and there is no apparent basis for refusing to settle government funding levels for defense and other functions first.

FOURTH, it's all very well to thunder that "elected officials can't even reliably fulfill their most basic obligation: to create a budget for the federal government," but no can remember a year when the congressional budget process was completed by the deadline (first day of the fiscal year, e.g., October 1). Although a more businesslike and responsible approach to the budgeting process would be great, how could one hope to promote an attitude adjustment without assigning blame when things go wrong?

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