Congress averted a government shutdown last week by passing a stopgap spending bill. But that only reset the clock for a similar showdown in December when the new law expires. There are other important funding issues that Congress needs to address: The federal debt ceiling needs to be raised, and the Highway Trust Fund needs refunding to pay for crumbling infrastructure. And, of course, a full budget needs passing.
Failure to act on these issues is bad for the country. But the Republican caucus in Congress is so polarized that it cannot — or will not — compromise with the Obama administration. That polarization has claimed the career of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who announced his resignation before the stopgap bill was passed.
It has seemed to many that Republicans in Congress, especially the growing Tea Party-backed conservative wing, are more interested in frustrating President Barack Obamaís initiatives than in fashioning a positive Republican agenda. The result is that the country has been held hostage over and over, with government approval ratings dropping.
We would welcome the GOP taking the change in its leadership as an opportunity to get its own house in order and to exercise its majority by acting like a governing party. Unfortunately, if history is a guide, the Republican caucus will continue to devour its leadership and pursue a destructive path on its way to vanquishing Planned Parenthood, the Export-Import Bank and other pet targets, even if it means shutting down the government, spooking the markets and infuriating ordinary Americans.
Put simply: A dysfunctional government is not in the interests of Americans or America. In going about the business of governing, elected officials must be able to engage in constructive discussion with those with whom they disagree in an effort to reach common ground. Neither side will get everything it wants, but the process will move forward and government will function. This is a basic rule in the dynamic that keeps businesses functioning and families together, but it seems to be a principle that is too difficult for many of our elected leaders to grasp.
That leaves the solution with the electorate. The public needs to send a clear message to members of Congress who apparently feel that compromise is a waste of their time: Those responsible for presiding over a do-nothing government should find themselves without a job.