Congress Should Avoid Shutdown Without Further Debt Increases

There are just a few weeks left to avoid a government shutdown. Without either a continuing resolution or appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2024, the government will shut down at midnight on October 1, with non-essential services delayed and federal employees either furloughed or reporting to work without pay.

Read our Q&A: Everything You Should Know About Government Shutdowns.

The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

With the end of the fiscal year upon us, it looks as though Congress will go yet another year without completing the appropriations process and fully funding the government on time. This along with associated political posturing has become all too commonplace and is a sign of deep government dysfunction. Funding the government is one of the most very basic tasks of governing, yet this is likely to be the 27th year in a row that Congress fails to pass appropriations before the end of the fiscal year. At a minimum, they should pass a continuing resolution to keep the lights on.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) was meant to pave the way for an easy appropriations process by setting the topline defense and nondefense spending levels. Yet both chambers seem intent on ignoring the spending levels they agreed to just three months ago.

Some House lawmakers rightly argue that deficits need to be reduced further. The FRA was only a start, and we need to immediately turn to finding more savings. But refusing to go along with the agreed-upon levels undermines trust and makes future negotiations more complicated. Instead they should engage in a process of suggesting further savings to build on the work of the FRA, either through specific policy changes or by creating a bipartisan fiscal commission.

Meanwhile Senate appropriators seem to be intent on making things worse. They are working on a bipartisan basis to boost spending above the FRA levels by classifying $14 billion of ordinary appropriations as “emergency spending,” which would reverse at least 10 percent of the FRA’s savings. This is separate from any actual emergency spending they may appropriate for Ukraine, natural disasters, or other purposes. Rather than engaging in recklessly increasing the deficit, the Senate should cut their regular spending down to the levels agreed to under the FRA. Any true emergency spending should be fully offset so it doesn’t worsen an already dismal fiscal situation.

The government needs to avoid a shutdown. They also need to deal with our national debt. Our deficit is set to double this year; our debt has been downgraded, and the rest of the world is watching either with concern or smug satisfaction as our lawmakers fail to govern responsibly. It is time for our leaders to confront the ongoing fiscal challenges and put their political differences aside for the good of the country. They need to honor the deal agreed to in the FRA; fund the government on time either through appropriations or a CR, but absolutely avoiding a juvenile and inexcusable shutdown; and they need to turn their attention to creating a bipartisan effort to confront our fiscal challenges.


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