Perhaps the greatest lesson that should be taken from the fiasco of the 16-day federal government shutdown is that it should not happen again.
But whether enough lawmakers have learned that lesson remains to be seen.
The agreement that ended the shutdown stalemate funds government operations through Jan. 15 and extends the federal government’s borrowing authority until Feb. 7. During the next few months, negotiators from the Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate and Republican-controlled U.S. House have been tasked with hammering out some sort of compromise longterm spending plan.
The shutdown cost the U.S. economy about $24 billion, according to a report by Standard & Poor’s. It rattled consumer confidence, shook the bond markets and sent shock waves throughout the world economy. And during those 16 days, hundreds of thousands of federal workers and contractors were furloughed without pay, national parks and memorials were shuttered and millions of poor and disabled people saw their crucial federal benefits delayed or imperiled.
Now is not the time to assign blame for the shutdown or pick a winner of its resolution, for there were clearly no winners in the entire sad episode – only losers.
The end of the shutdown brings with it no certain, clear benefits to the longterm health of the economy, for nothing was resolved by the deal that ended it. The steadfast differences between the parties remain, almost certain to come to a head once again as the new deadlines approach.
The political gridlock that has gripped Congress has brought the effectiveness of that body to a halt and almost entirely eliminated lawmakers’ ability to accomplish anything. Members of the Senate and House must find a way to work to resolve their differences in the best interests of the country. While politicians of good faith and competing philosophies will always disagree, it is not only their job but their duty to find common ground.