Two weeks. December 22nd. That is how much time Congress has bought itself before we’re faced with another government shutdown. Two weeks and they’re celebrating. Put the champagne away, funding the government is literally their job and kicking the can down the road for two more weeks is nothing to celebrate.
What will it take for Congress to do their job? Why do we come to the brink of shutdown annually? How does a party fully in control of the federal government fail to agree on a long-term package? When did this become normal procedure?
High profile negotiations have turned into little more than photo opportunities and a chance to throw partisan punches. Take for example Thursday’s meetings at the White House. Publicly, leaders of both parties said the meetings were “productive.” Privately, I’m told there was little movement and agreement. It’s passed time to get serious.
Here is an idea, to have good faith negotiations, we first need to remove the legislative figureheads from both parties. Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Chuck Schumer can all take a seat for this one. Eliminate the grandstanding. In their place, send a bipartisan group who have shown a willingness to work across the aisle. Here are ten Senators that come to mind:
- Jon Tester (Montana)
- Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)
- Mark Warner (Virginia)
- Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
- Michael Bennet (Colorado)
- Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
- Bob Corker (Tennessee)
- Susan Collins (Maine)
- Jeff Flake (Arizona)
- Ron Johnson (Wisconsin)
Get this group in a room and open up the conversation. Make the negotiations public. The task should be to provide a long-term government funding framework. Maybe you have other suggestions for who should be in this group. The point is, we have to try something. Polls show overwhelmingly people want bipartisan solutions. It’s time for Congress to deliver. Fully funding priorities for a year would be something to celebrate.