Our View: Prevent government shutdown

The political Grinch may sneak into the holiday season later this week and steal common sense out of the nation’s capital. Increasingly, it appears President Trump and Republicans controlling Congress are ready to shut down some of the federal government Friday night. Happy holidays.

We’ve been here before, and it never works out well – particularly for the public. Closing down the mammoth machinery of the federal government is not a matter of just turning off the lights. The important work done by federal employees isn’t halted just for a few hours. It is disrupted in ways that take a long while to correct. It’s like stopping a loaded freight truck going up a freeway grade. Getting that beast back up to freeway speed isn’t easy.

In our area, the work of essential agencies would be put on hold, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Interior earlier this week were on the list of those to close. That means, for instance, the Vale District office of the Bureau of Land Management would be out of business until money starts flowing again.

This would happen because Congress hasn’t approved the new budget required to pay for certain federal functions. The president has parked his own diesel truck in the way. He has said he’s more than willing to see federal services shut down unless he gets $5 billion to construct walls along our border with Mexico.

In this odd era of politics, the fact the Republicans are in charge of the White House, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House means they are in charge in title only. Democrats wield enough votes in the Senate to block a funding measure, including one they think carries too much cash for the wall. Republicans don’t have the power to run over recalcitrant Democrats, so the government-closing looms on.

We’re tempted to say, “Take it outside.” Getting into a political knife fight now is mostly going to injure the bystanders – the American public.

Oregon does have some clout in the matter. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who represents Malheur County and much of the geography of the state, is a leader among House Republicans. He chairs a powerful committee – for a few days more – that has pushed through legislation supported by Democrats and the president. He has been in on more than a few White House meetings. He clearly can get action when he wants.

This summer, Walden supported legislation in the House that, among other acts, put $16 billion into the kitty to pay for the wall. The measure went nowhere, in part because some of Walden’s fellow Republicans opposed the immigration reform contained in that bill. This week, Walden said he supports “securing our borders and reforming our broken immigration laws,” but added he is “not locked into a specific dollar request from the administration.”

In the waning days of this week and year, let’s cheer on Walden to use every ounce of his political skill and capital to help bring sense to the capital. For us in Malheur County, the congressman represents our best hope to resolve this fight without turning off the government engine-powering services so important to so many local citizens. – LZ