Last I checked, members of Congress weren’t in college anymore – so why are they pulling all-nighters? Late last night, lawmakers cut a $1.3 trillion budgetary deal that would let them keep the metaphorical lights on for the next four months. The bill’s passage comes mere days before the current funding was set to expire and leave us once again in a state of unproductive and unfunded gridlock. So, we’ve avoided governmental paralysis by the skin of our teeth – but are we really all that well off? I don’t think so.
See, the problem with all-nighters is that they come at a cost. When students cram for a test or miraculously churn out a twelve-page paper in the four hours they have before class, they tend to miss details. Maybe it’s a typo; maybe they forget to cite a vital source. Whatever the case may be, the work quality is significantly lower than it might have been if they had taken the time to do a more thorough job. But when a student stumbles through a project, the only factor at risk is their grade – when our lawmakers do the same on a massive spending bill, whole livelihoods are at stake. The gravity of the situation can’t be understated. Needless to say, more than a few people in Washington are frustrated. When the final draft of the bill dropped on Thursday morning, Kentucky senator Rand Paul expressed just this frustration in the following tweet:
He’s right! It’s unrealistic – downright insane, even – to expect anyone to be able to read the 2,000+ page document in the span of a day, much less understand and debate it. And make no mistake, this is a bill worth debating; the document itself is a stitched-together Frankenstein of smaller independent spending bills, each with their own problems. Taken together, it’s a monstrosity – and worst of all, it doesn’t even make a pass at resolving hot-button issues such as immigration, health control, and gun protection.
Of course, there are some positives thrown into the (underwhelming) mix. As House speaker Paul Ryan announced on Thursday, the bill formalized the highest defense spending increase in fifteen years, thereby allowing us to “reverse the damage of the last decade and […] create a 21st-century fighting force.” But no one is really happy; Republicans are frustrated that their efforts to push their campaign agendas have be blocked at near-every turn, and the Dems are more than a little upset that their leadership has once again let their pet causes fall to the wayside. But what really gets me, personally, are legislators like Senator James Risch, who attempted to hold up the spending bill over language that would have renamed a wilderness preserve after his now-deceased political rival.
I mean, are you kidding me? With all of the significant issues inherent in this bill, people like Risch are going to go after petty grudges? The idiocy of the whole episode blows me away. Now, the objecting senator didn’t get his way, but I think his objection speaks to a greater problem with how we prioritize and handling budgetary concerns. The mountain of papers we see on Rand’s desk isn’t a productive spending bill; it’s a mishmash of compromise and legislative hem-hawing. When the government once again runs out of money in September, I hope that we can stop dancing around the major issues and do the budgetary process justice, rather than pulling another all-nighter and hoping that we don’t flunk out on the American people.