With the longest government shutdown in American history finally at an end, there remains a crucial question to be asked: What can we do to prevent such occurrences in the future?
Shutdowns are extremely costly to the economy, financially devastating for federal workers, and generally destructive to the effective functioning of society as a whole.
There is a way to fix this. Currently, one of Congress’s main means of preventing shutdowns is passing continuous resolutions, or CRs. These fund government agencies for a short time, until a budget can be passed, or until another resolution is passed.
There are a few options to prevent future shutdowns. One is to pass legislation that enables automatic continuing resolutions, which would essentially make shutdowns as we’ve seen them in the last few years a thing of the past.
Another option would, more radically, for Congress to actually take some responsibility for a change and pass a budget, but given the thresholds of votes required to do so and given that the House and Senate are currently divided, it’s very unlikely that this will happen unless some kind of legislation is passed that would mandate it. Even then, we might see even worse gridlock than we do now.
It is important to remember that Congress holds the power of the purse. Continuing resolutions have been the main means of funding the government for a few years now, thanks to the difficulty of passing a budget.
Until that central issue is fixed, the shutdown fights will carry on for the foreseeable future.