A possible shutdown of the federal government will cause a loss of business for Long Islanders, a possible downgrade to the nation’s credit rating, and an unnecessary disruption of many vital services. That much is clear.
But then again, disruption — rather than good government — seems to be the name of this dangerous game being played by a segment of the Republican House majority. With the Sept. 30 budget deadline looming and Senate leaders working on a bipartisan proposal to continue funding for six more weeks, too many House Republicans are still opposed to any deal to avoid a shutdown, which would force thousands of U.S. employees to be temporarily out of work and cause a delay in getting government benefits to millions of Americans.
To avoid a shutdown this time, Congress must agree on a spending plan or at least a continuing resolution extending the time lawmakers have to come up with a deal. A shutdown would bring government to a halt for all agencies except those considered essential like Social Security, Medicare and the U.S. Postal Service. However, rather than show leadership toward a bipartisan budget deal, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been held hostage so far by the far right-wing members of his party who are intent on causing disruption. These extreme Republicans want to end or reduce funding for the war in Ukraine along with pressing their budget demands.
Behind the scenes, some in Long Island’s all-Republican congressional delegation can provide some sanity to prevent this budgetary dance off a cliff. Voters don’t like chaotic government, and a shutdown would only make them mad at the GOP come next year’s election. To his credit, Rep. Anthony D’Esposito reportedly lent the use of his office space for an impromptu meeting last week of more than a half-dozen fellow GOP members trying to find ways to avoid a shutdown.
The local delegation’s dean, Andrew Garbarino, chair of the House Homeland Security cyber subcommittee, is especially sensitive to the ill effects of a shutdown. Earlier this month, at a House hearing about the national security threat posed by hackers to America’s complex computer systems, he heard several experts warn that a shutdown could hurt our defenses. Garbarino told the editorial board that he’s particularly worried that any shutdown — even a short one — would force rating agencies like Moody’s to downgrade the creditworthiness of the United States, costing taxpayers much in borrowing costs. “We don’t come out of a shutdown winning,” Garbarino said.
Staging a shutdown has become a shopworn counterproductive tactic, traceable to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s budget showdown with former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Voters should be wise by now to these poorly conceived threats. It might be a rallying cry among the MAGA crowd, but it is a certain recipe for defeat at the ballot box.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.