Political News

How Congress will fail to do its most basic job (again)

Posted December 18, 2018 7:32 p.m. EST

— If Congress does, literally, nothing else every year, the two chambers are supposed to pass a series of appropriations bills that appropriate -- eh! -- money to the various parts of the federal government to keep it all up, operating and open.

And yet, as of this evening, it looks virtually certain that Congress will fail to do that most basic duty and instead do what it does best these days: Kick the can down the road and hope a solution presents itself in two weeks or two months.

"Looking toward that," Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, told CNN's Manu Raju about a short-term continuing resolution to keep the government open past the deadline of midnight Friday.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, told Raju that a short-term package was the "likeliest path forward," given the inability of the two sides to reach a deal on President Donald Trump's ask for $5 billion to partially fund his border wall.

To be clear: Because the White House and Congress can't agree on a way to fund the Homeland Security Department (and roughly 25% of the total federal government) for the next year, they are very likely to pass something that keeps the government open for a few weeks but does exactly nothing to address the underlying disagreement.

They will settle on this half-loaf measure because they are afraid of the political blame game that could result if the government shuts down -- even for a short period.

And so, we will move from this shutdown showdown to the next one -- adding another chapter in the "governance by lurching from crisis to crisis" handbook that Congress and the White House have been writing for the last decade or so.

Of course, nothing is out of the question until the clock strikes midnight on Friday. Last-minute deals can and do happen -- especially in Congress.

The Point: Even if a deal comes together that funds the government for the next year, this is no way to run a business -- much less the federal government. Governing from crisis to crisis helps no one in the long run.