The ongoing shutdown of parts of the federal government is a national disgrace.
There is no good reason for so many arms of our national government — from parks to airport security to the IRS — to be closed, running with unpaid staff, or both — while the president of the United States demands an unconscionable amount of money for an expensive boondoggle for a problem that doesn’t exist.
If the White House were really so concerned with our national security, it would not have allowed the Department of Homeland Security to be among those starved of funds for, so far, three weeks, into a shutdown the president says might go on for months, or even years.
Every member of the Utah congressional delegation should put nothing ahead of action to reopen all federal agencies as soon as possible. If they support the president’s demanded wall, well, that’s too bad. But they should have the decency to run and vote for a separate bill that would pay for it and, win or lose, get the rest of the government up and running.
Utah’s four members of the House of Representatives are seeking a way to at least reopen the national parks that are so important to Utah’s economy and self-image. Reps. John Curtis and Ben McAdams are forgoing their own pay while the shutdown lasts. Nice, but not enough.
Our senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, should demand that their party leaders allow a Senate vote on every spending bill that comes over from the House. They don’t even have to vote for them, just demand an up-or-down tally.
Our representatives should also make it clear that the president’s notion to have the wall built on his own imagined emergency power is clearly unconstitutional and would not be allowed to stand.
We may all love to hate many federal agencies and their employees. The IRS and the Transportation Security Administration come to mind. But to allow those services to go unfunded solves none of their problems. It only makes life needlessly difficult for 800,000 federal workers who, through absolutely no fault of their own, aren’t drawing their promised paychecks, as well as for those among us who want nothing more than to board an airplane, file the appropriate forms on their taxes, visit a national park or the Smithsonian Institute or claim the benefits due them by law.
The impact on the economy, nationally and in communities with many federal workers and services, can only be bad and can only get worse as long as this fiasco is allowed to continue.
It is difficult to imagine an issue, especially a funding issue, so important that the president would be justified in drawing a line in the sand and blocking appropriations for so much of the government until he gets his way. But this issue, the president’s demand for $5 billion for a wall along our border with Mexico, certainly isn’t it.
Illegal immigration is down. The groups of desperate families seeking only to take the legal course to apply for asylum create a burden on our government, but a manageable one for any administration interested in taking steps both to ensure our security and show proper humanitarian concern to the refugees. The preferred route for terrorists to enter our country has long gone through our airports (where unpaid security agents are calling in sick), not our border checkpoints.
The president’s unyielding demand for his wall only makes sense as a pathetic ploy to fire up his dwindling electoral base and divert attention from the various criminal and, now, congressional investigations that are closing in on his campaign, his administration and his family.
Our own state officials, including Budget Director Kristen Cox, are not helping when, instead of raising the alarm, they try to reassure Utahns that we can muddle through for another few weeks if necessary. This mess has already gone on far too long.
Congress has a job to do. If it means ignoring a president who will not deal rationally with the nation’s needs, or making a deal that will do what needs to be done in a way that lets the chief executive save face, fine. But get it done.