From: The New York Times
Revenge of the Pomeranians
By GAIL COLLINS
Right now concerned citizens are probably asking themselves: What will happen if the federal government shuts down?
Also, why is the federal government in danger of shutting down? Whom can I blame for this? Does it have anything to do with what’s going on in Wisconsin? Did Congress pass a budget last year at all? Why not? And does this relate in any way to the report that Christine O’Donnell, the former United States Senate candidate from Delaware, may be joining the next cast of “Dancing With the Stars?”
Wow, you are really asking yourselves a lot of questions, concerned citizens. Calm down.
Right now, all around the country, federal agencies are making plans for an orderly way to shut down nonessential services if Congress fails to do anything to keep the boat afloat next week. The air traffic controllers will stay on the job, but I would not plan any visits to a national park if I were you.
Hundreds of thousands of nonessential federal employees will be furloughed, stuck at home without a paycheck and contemplating their nonessentialness. The economy will tank. Nobody is going to be happy.
Except perhaps some of the House members who prowl the corridors yowling about deficits like accountants on crack. They think they were elected to shut down the government, so the idea of closing nonessential services must sound like a day at the beach.
All hope for averting disaster lies with Speaker John Boehner, who used to be a strangely tanned blowhard but is now regarded as a beleaguered statesman. This just happened a few days ago, so you may not have gotten the memo.
Unfortunately, so far, Speaker Boehner has not been all that helpful. There is very little in Washington that can’t be explained by an episode of the original “Star Trek,” and Boehner is playing out the one where the Romulan captain prefers the ways of peace but is saddled with a crew that will mutiny if he fails to follow through on the plan to blow up the galaxy.
Our current problem began last year when Congress never got around to passing any appropriations bills. It’s not all that unusual for our elected officials to fail to complete their budgetary duties, but this was the first time they didn’t accomplish anything. Really, you’d think they would have issued a stamp to commemorate the achievement.
To keep the government going, the House and Senate passed resolutions ordering the agencies to keep doing whatever they’d been doing before. The latest resolution expires next week, and the new, transformed House wants to tell the agencies to do less. Last week, it passed a bill calling for a vast degree of lessness.
This happened without a whole lot of preplanning. Although the Republicans are obsessed with stopping illegal immigration, they cut billions of dollars out of border security and immigration enforcement. “Even with all the money in the world, the administration would not succeed in securing the border because they are not serious about it,” theorized Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
President Obama, who has actually done quite a lot about border security, says he would veto the House version, which would wreak havoc with everything from veterans’ health care to Head Start. So the clock is ticking. To make things even more dramatic, the Senate’s metabolism is unchanged, and everyone has gone home to enjoy a much-needed vacation after two exhausting months during which the senators passed a bill on the Federal Aviation Administration and congratulated Barbara Mikulski on being the longest-serving female senator.
One thing that never changes in Washington is the difference in metabolism between the House and Senate. Have you ever watched pet-rehabilitation shows like “The Dog Whisperer”? The House is the deranged Pomeranian that yelps and throws itself against the window and tears up the upholstery 24/7. The Senate, meanwhile, is like a narcoleptic Great Dane you can hardly rouse for dinner.
The senators are scheduled to get back into the swing of things on Monday with a reading of George Washington’s farewell address. Then the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has until Friday to come up with a plan. It’s quite a challenge. No doubt it was much on his mind when he made a big speech to the Nevada State Legislature this week and surprised everyone by demanding that the state have an “adult conversation” about its legal brothels. It did not appear to be the problem the politicians were expecting to tackle next.
Still, you can understand his eagerness to talk about something nonbudgetary. I can’t wait to move on to that question about Christine O’Donnell and “Dancing With the Stars,” which I am pretty sure will not require an argument about entitlements.