As your read this, there are just a few days until a new federal budget must be approved by Congress. As has become the norm for I can't remember how many years now, the required action has not been taken to this point.

I was taught many years ago that Congress's main charge is to formulate and pass the budget for the nation. However, a true budget proposal hasn't been passed in so long that I can't remember. It seems that the country is running on a series of continuing spending resolutions and patchwork tax legislation that don't show any long-term planning for the economic health of the country.

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If not passed as continuing resolutions or a full budget by Oct. 1, the government will once again shut down operations. Federal workers at all levels will either be furloughed or work without pay for the duration of the shutdown. At the end of the shutdown period, those who were working but unpaid during that period will get the wages that were withheld and those who were forced off the job will also receive their salaries, if past performance is any indication, which in reality gives those workers additional paid vacation days above what is in their employment contracts.

It seems pretty simple to me, but members of Congress can't see that operating in such a manner causes economic and personal harm to the federal employees and their families who are directly affected by the loss, even if only temporary, of their income. In addition, such economic stress rapidly filters down to the rest of the general public as folks don't have income to spend on necessities, much less those extras that make their lives easier or more fun.

For this go around, the big roadblock appears to be the funding for Planned Parenthood. Because of their intransigence, the Republicans are threatening to bring the entire nation to a screeching halt over one relatively small line item. Planned Parenthood does provide some abortion services, but those are only a small portion of the medical and counseling services that they provide to women of all economic strata. No matter your views on abortions, it feels completely insane to disrupt government operations over a budget item that is probably less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget (if there is one).

In my opinion, it's time for the Congress to get its act in gear and do the job for which each member was elected to do. Party differences need to be put aside and the idea that "compromise" is not a dirty word has to become a mantra for each and every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Cooperation is a sign of power, not weakness, but for the longest time our nation's representative government has been hijacked by those who pander to the extreme fringes of their party's followers.

Somewhere among the 360 million citizens of this once great nation there is a statesman or woman who can pull us all together and allow us to be unquestionably the greatest nation on Earth once again. I think that we've lost the ideological vision for the future that led us to the top of the heap, so to speak, after each of the World Wars and nearly to the new millennium. Congress, do your duty and pass a full and binding budget if not by this October, by the next at the latest.

Bill Kennedy writes every other Monday from Taneytown. E-mail him at wlkennedyiii@verizon.net.

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