WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Congress may have narrowly avoided another doomsday government shutdown this week.
While the headlines may seem overly dramatic, the shutdowns may actually be a huge crisis for Americans and the American economy.
But the United States is the only country in the world where this is a problem. Why is it a big problem? This is why:
One of the main jobs of Congress is to decide a budget and financing for the government, this includes providing money for each of the 12 main federal agencies. Sometimes they are combined into one giant bill, called an omnibus, totaling more than $1.5 trillion.
Since 1974, the deadline to pass all these budgets has been October 1. But it wasn’t a big deal if Congress didn’t approve the funds by that date because the agencies could pay for things with money left over from the previous year’s budget.
All that changed in 1981.
An important part of a bill called “Anti-deficiency Law
He said government agencies can’t spend money without an agreement, even to pay employees. It was seen as an incentive for Congress to pass a budget on time.
But since then, the US has shut down 21 times; sometimes with major consequences.
The longest shutdown in history occurred in 2019 when the government shut down for 35 days. During that time, about 800,000 federal employees did not receive a paycheck, but most of them still had to go to work.
The reports show the US economy lost $11 billion.
This year, Congress postponed the shutdown for a couple of weeks by passing what are known as “continuing resolutions.” Short-term funding bills are essentially how they keep the lights on to give legislators more time.
Congress finally reached agreement on a full omnibus package days before the money ran out, but there are still significant problems with cutting it so close to each year. Agencies waste taxpayer time and money preparing for a shutdown.
“I’m pretty sure we’re talking billions to tens of billions,” said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service. “It has become the cost of doing business. And it’s a very, very large cost. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the disruptions that are involved in Congress not doing what it’s supposed to do.”
It’s Washington’s version of Groundhog Day, and unless something changes, the next potential shutdown is only a year away.