The Smithsonian Institution, National Zoo and national parks across the country remained open for business Saturday morning, but this was almost not the case. Late Friday night, Congress finally reached a compromise that prevented a federal government shutdown. But Americans should not thank Congress for finally doing in the eleventh hour what it should have done days, if not months, ago. While we appreciate Congress getting its act together, it should have done so before 11 p.m. on Friday night. This goes to show how unbearable the partisan politics of Washington D.C. have become. The partisan divide is tearing apart the nation and making it impossible to govern efficiently. Congress, please stop playing games, and go back to doing your job.
Friday night, as a government shutdown loomed near, House Speaker John Boehner (R–Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.) and President Barack Obama finally struck a deal. The compromise that was reached cut $38 billion in governmental spending. According to an April 10 Bloomberg article, Democrats were initially sticking to $33 billion in cuts, but on Friday afternoon, Obama raised this number and agreed to $38 billion. Republicans were asking for more than $40 billion, and the lingering issue was the Planned Parenthood funding ban. Obama and the Democrats refused to cut any spending from family planning services. The long-term Republican budget plan proposes $4 trillion in cuts and will be the issue of debate in the upcoming weeks.
The good news is that the U.S. finally has a budget — in the short term at least. The bad news is that the country was one-and-a-half hours away from a total shutdown. This is unacceptable. At 10:30 p.m. Congress still hadn’t reached a consensus, and Americans across the nation were uncertain if their paychecks, tax returns and pension benefits would be delayed. Congress works for and represents the people: It does not exist to increase their burdens. There’s no reason that this compromise had to come so late. Congress should have and could have acted earlier.
Much of the resistance came as a result of the Tea Party’s influence. While it is understandable that the Tea Party is obligated to fight for the policies it was elected on, it is unreasonable for members to do so without compromise. The Republican Party is being pushed further to the political Right by the Tea Party, and this is affecting its ability to negotiate and compromise. The Tea Party needs to understand the limits on its mandate and should stop asking for irrational one-sided policies. Republicans need to take a much stronger stance against this extreme movement and reclaim their authority.
Most importantly, the budget ordeal revealed how ugly partisan politics on Capitol Hill have become. Americans are already frustrated with the petty party battles being fought in Washington D.C., and this budget crisis did nothing to ease these frustrations. Instead of showing leadership when it was most necessary, our representatives in Washington were busy disagreeing over personal agendas. Congress needs to get its act together to have deliberative discussions and negotiate policy compromises.