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Congress constant: the continuing resolution

<p>The Capitol is seen in Washington on Dec. 5, 2017.</p>

The Capitol is seen in Washington on Dec. 5, 2017.

(J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

One of the most fundamental duties of our United States Congress is to craft, authorize and appropriate an annual national budget, which funds everything from the salaries for our service-members deployed in harm’s way to nationwide education programs and our federal agencies’ response to natural disasters.

Far too often, however, our elected officials fail to work together and pass a complete budget. It has become the new norm for our government to operate under what is called a “continuing resolution,” which is a sort of temporary spending bill passed to avoid a shutdown. According to the Government Accountability Office, this has happened in 36 of the past 40 years — most recently last week when the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 22, buying themselves more time to hash out a deal.

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President Trump meets with congressional leaders at White House to avert a Friday government shutdown as they try to broker a year end deal on federal funding levels and other issues, including protections Democrats - and some Republicans - want for young immigrant Dreamers.

But what this really means is that lawmakers, in their ineptness, have failed to do their jobs and pass the most basic of measures to fund our government.

In 2016, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter remarked that this reliance on continuing resolutions year after year is a massive strategic risk to the security and future of the United States, and I couldn’t agree more.

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I blame both sides of the aisle, as legislators have proven unable to effectively work together on this bi-partisan issue. A budget is not something we can simply hand-wave over. In fact, our cavalier approach to a national budget shows the level of disrespect our elected officials have for everyday working Americans, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, as they pay their fair share of taxes and strive to support their families.

Congressional lawmakers were scrambling Tuesday to reach agreement on a funding measure to avert a government shutdown at week’s end and address several agenda items — from a children’s health insurance program to immigration — that have stalled for months.

Why am I so passionate about a budget? Let me tell you a quick story. In September 2010, my soldiers and I had just deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was transitioning into Operation New Dawn. Downrange, news and current events are sometimes hard to come by. However we were able to get tidbits of information about the on-goings back home through the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

As we were getting ready for a mission, one of my soldiers picked up a copy and was reading a story with a headline that was something like “What a government shutdown means.” I didn’t think too much about it, as I was focused on mission and keeping my soldiers safe. However, my soldiers did. And that night the reality of the situation hit me square in the face.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a sweeping defense policy bill that authorizes a $700 billion budget for the military, but there's a catch.

After an exhausting patrol, as we were resetting the vehicles and prepping for the next day, one of my soldiers came to me and said, “Sir, so we were talking, and if the government shuts down, will we get paid?” I’m never one to be at a loss for words, but at that exact moment, I didn’t know what to say. I looked into his bloodshot eyes and realized that this issue, which we have become so accustomed to, is a very real and threatening issue to families across this nation.

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This soldier had married within the past year and had a new baby to support. And right then, his only thoughts were about supporting his family if he didn’t get paid. He put his life on the line for his government, and in return, lawmakers risked his livelihood.

Unfortunately this exact situation has happened repeatedly since then, for both military and federal civilian employees alike.

Enough is enough. As a nation, we expect our military service members, civil servants and federal employees to do their jobs and meet deadlines. And it’s time we expected the same from our elected officials.

Do your job, Congress. Don’t fail us again.

Adam DeMarco (adam.d.demarco@gmail.com) is an Army veteran, business consultant and Democratic candidate for Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District.

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