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Another Voice: Congress should pass a long-term funding bill

By Andy Koenig

Another year, another looming government shutdown fight.

That’s the predicament Congress has put us in. Members have yet to do their basic constitutional duty: funding the government for 2017. With Congress reconvening, members will have to scramble to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

This government-by-crisis is now a tradition. The result is almost always the same – and it doesn’t benefit New Yorkers.

With only days or hours before a shutdown, some lawmakers will advocate for a short-term funding bill that lasts through December. This will kick the budget debate into a lame-duck session – the two-month period after the election when neither Congress nor President Obama is accountable to voters.

They’ll use this opportunity to enact a massive “omnibus” bill that’s crafted behind closed doors and filled with handouts to special interests and higher spending. Then they’ll pass it without even reading it, abandoning their duty to protect their constituents – to protect you.

New Yorkers are understandably sick of this charade. We need a new way. That’s why members of Congress should pass a long-term funding bill. We’re calling this plan “Stop, Cut & Fix.”

Start with “Stop.” A long-term funding bill – say, two years – would end the cycle of manufactured crises.

Next up is “Cut.” The biggest problem with the current system is that some lawmakers – on both sides of the aisle – leverage the threat of a shutdown to hike government spending in a lame-duck session.

But a two-year funding bill would protect the bipartisan spending cuts that were established in the 2011 Budget Control Act. These caps are still on the books. A two-year bill would lock them in through 2018, saving taxpayers $150 billion.

Finally, there’s “Fix.” It’s obvious that the budgeting process is broken. A two-year funding bill would give Congress time to fix it. They would even have time to discuss reforms to entitlements – the main drivers of America’s $19.4 trillion-and-growing national debt.

Crucially, there’s nothing in this plan preventing lawmakers from adjusting spending within the caps. They would simply have to weigh each proposal’s pros and cons – what they’re supposed to be doing right now.

Lawmakers have two choices. They can either stick with the failed status quo – broken promises, higher spending and shutdown threats – or they can get behind a plan that prevents a shutdown fight, restores the normal budgeting process and puts New York taxpayers first.

It shouldn’t be a hard decision.

Andy Koenig is a senior policy adviser at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce.