Let’s make Congress do its work

By: US Senator James Lankford (R-OK)

This looks familiar. Days away from federal funding running out and the Senate still hasn’t passed a single spending bill. Murphy’s law of “whatever can happen, will happen” certainly applies to Congress. It’s likely that as Congress inches towards midnight on September 30th, we will once again pass what’s known as a “continuing resolution” to fund the government—not putting in any work and punting the tough decisions for some time later. If that sounds irresponsible to you, you’re right. It is.  

But with limited time left before the deadline of September 30th, and the Senate yet to discuss or pass one funding bill, the possibility of a government shutdown also looms, which is even more irresponsible.

I know some Oklahomans believe shutting the government down is a good thing because if the government is shut down, it’s not causing new problems or spending their money. I get it. But in reality a shutdown just gives Americans an even slower government. Historically a closed government costs more than an open one because during a shutdown some taxes and fees can go uncollected, furloughed employees who don’t work can be paid for work they didn’t do, interest may be assessed on missed payments to contractors, and economic growth is slowed for everyone. Ultimately, shutdowns cost taxpayer dollars, hurt federal workers and their families, threaten critical services and operations, and jeopardize our national security. They need to stop. 

I have a solution to take government shutdowns off the table for good.

My Prevent Government Shutdowns Act would end government shutdowns by keeping the government open but forcing Congress to stay in Washington, DC, until the work to fund the government is complete.

If the government is not funded on time, my solution would keep the government funded with an automatic continuing resolution at last year’s spending levels to eliminate the threat of a shutdown altogether. Members of Congress, our staff, and the White House Office of Management and Budget staff could not leave DC until all the spending bills for the next fiscal year have passed. 

Government shutdowns waste taxpayer dollars. While some have recommended that the solution to this problem is “no budget, no pay,” the reality is half of my colleagues are millionaires, and their congressional salaries are equivalent to a rounding error in their bank account. The most effective way to get Congress’s attention is to take away time.

When Congress is not voting, I travel Oklahoma to meet face-to-face with folks all around the state, hear about what matters most to their families and businesses, and talk about the solutions to those problems. This is true for every one of my colleagues. It’s an important part of the job, but it can’t be more important than passing a budget or being fiscally responsible.

Oklahoma has more than 37,000 federal employees who proudly serve their neighbors every day. We have embarrassingly failed to fund the government 21 times, and 21 times these federal employees have suffered the consequences of a mess Congress caused.

Our national debt is skyrocketing past $28 trillion, which should alarm everyone in our nation. At a time when Democrats are pushing to spend trillions more on progressive agenda items this year alone, it’s important for Congress to work through a functional budget and spending process to prevent overspending and waste. When the government shuts down, everyone in DC blames “the other party.” The American people don’t care who is to blame, they just want the problem fixed. 

Congress should pass my Prevent Government Shutdown Act so we can protect federal families, hold Congress accountable for doing their job, get our spending under control, and end government shutdowns once and for all.