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We Should Have Grown-Up Conversations Without Shutting Down the Government

By: US Senator James Lankford (R-OK)

US Customs and Border Protection recorded nearly 233,000 immigrants attempting to cross the border illegally last month. Last week, there were almost 11,000 illegal crossings in one 24-hour period. Since Biden took office, in less than three years, there have been more than 6 million encounters at the border, which is more than the previous 12 years combined.

For months, the public has heard that the border is in crisis, but when a government shutdown occurs, the situation on the border gets even worse. Overworked federal law enforcement along our border are asked to keep working without being paid until the government reopens. During a shutdown, many federal contractors also do not come into work and will not get paid at all. Along the border, contractors are a significant part of border enforcement and processing.

Still, some in Washington feel the best way to advance their policy ideas is for the government to shut down in order to put political pressure on leadership in the House and the Senate. The three key issues around the latest government funding fight are real and significant: national security, $33 trillion in federal debt, and America’s role in international diplomacy. We absolutely should debate the direction of our economy, foreign policy, and national sovereignty, but Border Patrol agents and their families should not be used as leverage for Congress to complete its work.

For the last five years, I’ve worked with Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) on a commonsense solution to take shutdowns off the table for good. Our Prevent Government Shutdowns Act is based on a simple concept: If you don’t finish your work on time, you have to stay until it is done. Every member of Congress has to remain in Washington, DC, seven days a week until the 12 appropriations bills have passed the House and Senate.

It’s the same expectation we have for our children: You have to stay after class if you fail to do your work in class. If Congress spent less time focused on shutdowns, we would actually have adult conversations on the trillions of dollars in overspending. We’re the United States of America. We should be able to have grown-up conversations about debt and deficit without shutting down. My bill lets us have those tough debates and protect government workers and the public in the process.

Our Border Patrol agents need support, not continued government shutdowns. It’s time to give them what they deserve and take shutdowns off the table for good.