EDITORIAL: One job, Congress. One job

The York Dispatch

Funding the federal government — keeping the lights on, the trains running and paying the bills — is about as basic as it gets.

It is the very least we expect from the men and women we send to Washington, D.C.

Yet they continue to fail the nation, bumbling from one manufactured crisis to another, leaving confusion and chaos in their wakes.

Parts of the government shut down at midnight Friday, the second such embarrassing debacle in five years and the fourth in a quarter century.

With no apparent indications of a breakthrough in the Senate to avoid a government shutdown, the Capitol is illuminated in Washington, Friday evening, Jan. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

We’re not even counting the brinksmanship in recent years over other basic duties of Congress, such as raising the debt ceiling to pay for things members have already approved.

More:Shutdown divides services into essential and non-essential

More:Government shutdown begins and so does the finger-pointing

More:White House promises this shutdown ‘will look very different.’ Will it?

Friday’s failure means non-essential government services will grind to a halt, federal workers face furloughs and contractors won’t be paid until the mess gets sorted out. The effects will likely become more pronounced the longer the shutdown drags on.

Even more galling is the fact that this isn’t even a fight over full appropriations legislation to fund the government for a year — which is how state and local governments, businesses large and small — and even responsible households handle their finances.

No, this standoff all boils down to yet another “continuing resolution.”

The sign at the Ellis Island ferry cue informs visitors that there was no access to the island or to the Statue of Liberty, due to the government shutdown, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018 in New York. When a dispute in Congress over spending and immigration forced scores of federal government agencies and outposts to close their doors, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island had to turn away visitors, due to what the National Park Service described as "a lapse in appropriations." (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

This is a temporary funding measure that will give Congress weeks — or even days, per one idea being kicked around in D.C. last weekend — before a new deadline looms and the hand-wringing begins anew.

If a real deal was on the horizon, such a measure might not be a bad thing. It would give lawmakers time to put the finishing touches on the best possible long-term funding legislation.

But continuing resolutions have become business as usual for Congress, a way of life for members who have passed three short-term funding measures just since Oct. 1, 2017.

In fact, Congress hasn’t met the Oct. 1 deadline for regular appropriations bills in 20 years, according to The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization aimed at raising “public awareness of the nature and urgency of the key fiscal challenges threatening America's future.”

However, since fiscal year 1998, lawmakers have passed 112 continuing resolutions, the foundation noted.

The current shutdown really is about yet another kick at the can.

It is unique in that it’s the first federal government shutdown to occur with one party in complete control of Washington.

Perhaps “control” isn’t be best word.

President Donald Trump, the ruling Republicans’ feckless leader, has shown he couldn’t deal his way out of a wet paper bag, and his conflicting comments and shifting positions on any terms is frustrating lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

While we watched last weekend for signs of compromise, all we saw was the GOP trying mightily to lay the blame on Democrats, and the Dems just as eagerly trying to hang the shutdown on their Republican colleagues.

This is no way to govern — and we suspect there’s going to be plenty of shame to go around when the lights come back on.