Anyone paying attention to the news recently knows that this month will be a busy one in Washington. Congress needs to pass a bill to fund the government, raise the debt ceiling, provide post-Harvey aid, reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program, reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, while trying to get the ball rolling on tax reform, dealing with immigration policy and border security, and continuing to confirm executive nominations. All of this will be condensed into 11 days of scheduled session in September.
This sounds like a lot because it is a lot. But these condensed, high stakes moments are not new. Fiscal cliffs and crisis-oriented deadlines occur all the time in Washington. But guess who sets these deadlines and waits until the last moment to deal with them? Congressional leaders, who can tactically pretend to be hunted by the calendar straw men that they build.
Look for lots of quotes from Congressional leaders saying that they wish there was more time to do more but the imminent deadlines and calendar crunch do not allow enough time to do the right thing – ignoring the fact that we are 9 months into the year and just got back from a long August recess. Lawmakers will once again take the easy way out and punt all the problems to the next crisis-infused deadline, and use the same time crunch excuse once more. Rinse, wash, repeat.
As you watch the news coverage this month, notice how much of the deliberation and debate is about avoiding short-term catastrophes such as a government shutdown or a default, while there is a complete absence of long-term solutions that will put America on a sustainable fiscal course. Solutions that will take clear, concise explaining and buy-in from the American people to accomplish. And therein lies the problem. Short-term solutions win the news cycle and reelection is all our leaders in Washington care about. Republicans are using the same governing-by-crisis tactics as the Democrats did when they were in charge.
These theatrics create great fodder for political junkies and great ratings for media outlets. But they are a disaster for the American people, especially the younger Americans that are going to bear the brunt for the cynically calculated legislative tactics.
This will be a long and winding month in Washington that could go in many directions. But one thing is certain, the debt ceiling will be raised, the government will be funded, and the compromises it takes to get there will involve more debt-financed spending – just like it would be if Democrats were in charge of the House, Senate, and White House.
Governing-by-crisis tactics that emphasize days and weeks instead of years and decades is exactly why we are $20 trillion in debt and counting. Leadership of both parties create these short-term political fights because it distracts us from the fact that they don’t have a long-term vision to address our dire fiscal problems.
Update: Since this was originally posted, it has been reported that President Trump agreed with House and Senate Minority Leaders Pelosi and Schumer’s position to extend the debt limit and government funding through December 15th along with passing disaster relief funding for Hurricane Harvey. This was counter to Republican leaders’ position of extending the debt limit without any fiscal reforms for 18 months. The final details are unclear, but the agreement will add to the $20 trillion national debt and set up another high-stakes negotiation that will be driven by averting catastrophe again in December. Restore Accountability will have more on this deal and what it means for younger Americans in the coming days.