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Opinion Pieces by Rob

Rep. Rob Wittman: Shutdowns really ARE avoidable – Here's how to never have another one again

Rep. Rob Wittman: Shutdowns really ARE avoidable – Here's how to never have another one again

We just ended the longest government shutdown in American history. We reached a point of dysfunction that few had ever seen. With the State of the Union only days away, we are preparing to get to work on the president’s agenda for 2019, but also facing the threat of another shutdown.

The clock is set; two weeks to find a way to move forward. This is a product of a crisis budgeting scenario, where Congressional leadership ignores regular order and Americans feel the effects of uncertainty. However, situations like this are completely avoidable.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Since 1997, Congress has failed to complete both budget or appropriations bills on time. When the next year starts, Member’s memories fade, nothing changes, and the whole process restarts.

The answer is simple: Members of Congress should be held accountable for their inaction.

The recent partial shutdown means that now, more than ever, it is absolutely critical that Congress get back to passing a budget and appropriations bills on time.

Members of Congress need to get their work done and be held accountable if they don’t. That’s why I have introduced two pieces of legislation called the No Budget, No Pay Act and the Stay on Schedule Resolution.

These provisions would hold members to the highest standard so that if they don’t do their jobs, they won’t get a paycheck or August Recess, which many members use as a vacation. If we don’t fulfill one of our most basic responsibilities, frankly, there is no time for vacation. I also have a bill in called the Inaction Has Consequences Act that goes one step further to say that if members don’t complete appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year, their pay is withheld.

If my legislation were to become law, we would not find ourselves in these shutdown scenarios. When appropriations bills are not done on-time, we enter into shutdown showdowns where months of bipartisan, hard work gets dismissed. What is the price of this? Billions of dollars on our economy and hundreds of thousands of federal employees not receiving paychecks.

Even when Congress manages to avoid a shutdown and pass stop-gap continuing resolutions (CRs), the American people suffer. Under a CR, all spending remains the same, meaning that federal agencies can’t fund new programs, cut outdated ones, or plan for the future. Our military is also unable to properly budget, leading to insufficient training, unmaintained equipment, and decreased readiness. In fact, Congress is so reliant on the CR machine that most Members don’t even begin discussing outstanding budgets until the week before the end of the federal budget year. CRs have become the default – not the exception.

I have been introducing my legislation for years, but it has not moved forward because Members are unwilling to put their pay and vacation on the line. Congress should feel the same pressure our federal employees are felt, which is why I set the example by having my own pay withheld. Instead, many Members still collected paychecks and some even went on a tropical vacation during the shutdown. It’s time for Members to stop just preaching accountability, and instead put their money where their mouth is. Their silence is enabling the status quo.

During this Congress, we must step up and change the way Congress works, ending business as usual in Washington by passing budgets and spending bills on time. We can’t continue to find ourselves in completely avoidable situations – the American people have had enough of this insanity.