If you took a secret poll in the U.S. Senate as to whether the shutdown was a mistake, youâ€™d likely get 100 yes votes. Now at least two senators, senior ones at that, are suggesting we never make that mistake again.
They may have gotten a boost from the Congressional Budget Office, which released a report showing $11 billion was lost in the shutdown. â€śAs a result of reduced economic activity, CBO estimates, real . . . gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2018 was reduced by $3 billion (in 2019 dollars) in relation to what it would have been otherwise,â€ť the CBO reported. â€śIn the first quarter of 2019, the level of real GDP is estimated to be $8 billion lower than it would have been - an effect reflecting both the five-week partial shutdown and the resumption in economic activity once funding resumed.â€ť The CBO also determined, â€śAs a share of quarterly real GDP, the level of real GDP in the fourth quarter of 2018 was reduced by 0.1 percent, CBO estimates. And the level of real GDP in the first quarter of 2019 is expected to be reduced by 0.2 percent.1 (The effect on the annualized quarterly growth rate in those quarters will be larger.)â€ť
Fed up with self-inflicted political and economic wounds, Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mark Warner, D-Va., came up with separate but similar bills. â€śUnder [Portmanâ€™s] plan, which has 18 co-sponsors and rising, funding at existing levels would continue for agencies covered by an appropriations measure that was not signed into law by the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, preventing any lapse that incites a shutdown,â€ť the New York Times reports. â€śTo spur a resolution, funding would be reduced by 1 percent after 120 days if no agreement is reached and by 1 percent more every 90 days.â€ť
In a statement last week, Warner explained his cleverly titled bill: â€śThe Stop STUPIDITY (Shutdowns Transferring Unnecessary Pain and Inflicting Damage In The Coming Years) Act would fund all aspects of the government except for the legislative branch and the Executive Office of the President - effectively forcing Congress and the White House to come to the negotiating table without putting at risk the economy or hurting the American public.â€ť
Other powerful members, including Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Finance Committee, put out his own statement last Friday. â€śJust common sense tells me we need to reopen government,â€ť said Grassley. â€śIn fact, Iâ€™ll tell you that Iâ€™m embarrassed to even talk about it. It costs money to shut down government and it costs money to open up government. We ought to be functioning.â€ť He also called for an end to shutdowns â€śonce and for all.â€ť
These lawmakers are all on the right track. While they are at it, they should pass legislation clarifying that an â€śemergencyâ€ť under the National Emergencies Act cannot be â€śI negotiated with Congress for months but didnâ€™t get my way.â€ť
If Trump vetoes it, the first override of his tenure could appropriately be a defense of Congress as an equal branch, the one solely charged with passing legislation and funding the government.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.