Cutting spending without closing government

Washington Democrats and liberal-leaning mainstream media journalists have been wearing out their tongues for a week predicting House Republicans will force a government shutdown just as they did in 1995, with the same disastrous results for the GOP. They are framing the issue this way because they want a government shutdown, thinking it will blunt the drive by House Republicans to cut federal spending, which voters demanded last November.

Unfortunately, many Republicans have bought into the fallacy that the only way to achieve their goal is through a political stalemate that forces a suspension of government services.

In fact, this is not an “either/or” proposition, as congressional Republicans can show this week by taking two steps. First, House GOP leaders should introduce an alternative continuing resolution that ensures no slowdown in essential services, including the delivery of Social Security checks and Medicare payments for medical treatment, keeping the military at full strength and funding agencies charged with maintaining public safety. House Speaker John Boehner should make clear that this alternative continuing resolution will be approved if Senate Democrats and/or President Barack Obama refuse to accept the $61 billion in spending cuts approved last week by the lower chamber.

Just as Cato the Elder ended his every Roman Senate speech by demanding that “Carthage must die,” Boehner should constantly press for Democrats to stop obstructing the defunding of much-needed spending cuts.

As Examiner columnist and former U.S. Office of Personnel Management general counsel Hugh Hewitt wrote recently,  “Forewarned is forearmed, and if the public is briefed again and again on the GOP’s intention to keep the crucial parts of the government running, while allowing the shutdown of the EPA, the departments of education, labor and interior and various parts of health and human services (not Medicare, not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, not the Food and Drug Administration) the public will not only support the move, they will cheer it.”

Second, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell should himself return to Washington and challenge his colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, to cut short this week’s recess for “state work.” Business-as-usual Senate recesses won’t put America’s fiscal house back in order. The deadline for passage of a temporary funding resolution is March 4, so if senators remain at home through Friday, they will have little time to act on the continuing resolution when they return next week.

In this regard, Democrats and Republicans should take a cue from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: “I think in November, voters certainly here in Wisconsin — but [also] across the country — voters elected people to turn things around, to balance the budget, to stop the games. We’re broke and it’s about time somebody stood up and told the truth.”

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