Budget Bickering Will Lead To Government Freeze

by Ashley Carter
Columnist

The 112th Congress convened on Jan. 3, 2011. It is almost April, and Congress still has no budget. Something is wrong with this picture.

Actually, the government’s fiscal year began in October 2010. Unfortunately, no formal budget was adopted then due to resistance from Republicans. Instead, a resolution was passed to fund the federal government until March 4, 2011.

Congress passed a two-week extension on Feb. 28 and another extension on March 15. At this point, Congress has until April 8 to pass a budget — and many members of Congress are balking at the thought of yet another extension.

Why can’t Congress come up with a budget? Short answer: a lack of compromise between the parties. Republicans ran on a platform promising to cut $100 billion from the budget. Early on, they realized that this was unrealistic, as they would already be halfway through the fiscal year on March 4.

However, when Republican leaders proposed to cut $31 billion, many younger Republicans objected — particularly those who represent the Tea Party. In the end, Republicans settled on attempting to cut $61 billion from the budget.

A month ago, I wrote about the massive budget cuts that Republicans had proposed. Luckily, those measures have not passed into law — though the House passed the bill, the Senate did not.

Democrats, who have a majority in the Senate, saw this bill as a point from which to negotiate with their Republican counterparts to create some sort of compromise. Unfortunately, the Republican Party seems unwilling to accept any compromise that would cut less from the budget.

The Democrats in Congress stated their willingness to begin with $20 billion in cuts and work from that point. However, Congress seems deadlocked, with negotiations moving incredibly slowly towards a number that will likely be between $30 and $40 billion. If Congress cannot either agree on a new budget or pass another extension by April 8, a government shutdown could occur — the worst fear of many who see shutdown as political suicide.

The Republican Party’s first-time members of Congress will learn a very important lesson: never make promises that you aren’t positive you can keep. Democrats are not likely to agree to a cut of $61 billion, even with the threat of a government shutdown looming.

Even if the Grand Old Party could guarantee a number, it cannot promise that its cuts will help to deal with the country’s huge deficit. In fact, a cut of this magnitude is likely to cut thousands of jobs, in a country still hovering at an unemployment rate of about 9 percent. The goal should be to help the economy, not set it back again.
The fact that Democrats and Republicans are at least talking about the budget is a step in the right direction. However, there is no room for childish bickering when it comes to the federal budget.

Some smaller cuts have already been made, and many more will likely follow. Transylvania students should watch the news carefully to see how they will be affected — proposed cuts include those to Federal Pell Grants.

In the end, both parties should be making a significant effort to compromise on budget cuts, instead of stonewalling each other and threatening a government shutdown.

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