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Op-ed: The Senate must act

April 5, 2011
Op-Ed and Speech

By Rep. Rob Bishop, Standard Examiner

I am frustrated. "Dancing with the Stars" would not be exciting if each participant didn't have a partner. It does indeed take two to tango. Keeping the government funded right now and avoiding a shutdown takes two as well -- the House and the Senate. So far this year, only the House has acted; the Democratic Senate hasn't even shown up for the dance; and it's frustrating.

Last year, the leaders of the House, Senate and executive branch -- all from the same party -- failed in a historic way to pass a budget or appropriation bills. So this year, the House -- now under new management -- started the process that should have been done last year, and passed a funding resolution. It went to the Senate, and there the progress has ended.

We all know how the process should work. I taught it to all my high school government classes. The House passes a bill. The Senate passes their version. They work out the differences in a conference committee. In order for that to work, at some point the Senate has to pass something! The House has acted. The Senate has not.

It has been over 40 days since the Senate received the House bill, and still the Senate has not passed their own bill. They voted down the House version.

Then they voted down their own Democratic version by an even larger margin. Go figure. That is where it has stopped; but it can't. The Senate has to pass something -- anything. If not, the government shuts down.

A shutdown of the government does not solve our problems. It does not balance our budget. It does not cut our spending. It does hurt people -- especially in Northern Utah.

Twice the House has initiated budget extensions, accompanied by $10 billion in spending reductions. We are cutting spending while still keeping the government running. The House has bent over backwards to be accommodating, and still Senate Leader Reid dithers.

If the government does shut down Congressional staff will be treated the same as all other federal employees. I also agree that during this time, Members of Congress and the president should not be compensated if we fail to do our jobs.

I hear a lot of rhetoric about the "adult" thing to do. The "adult" thing to do was for last year's leaders to accept responsibility and pass a budget. This year, the "adult" thing to do is have the Senate leadership act and avoid a government shutdown.

It is worrisome when people like Howard Dean suggest there may be political gain for his party if the Senate allows a shutdown. Hopefully he and the Senate Democrats will wake up and realize this isn't some reality show -- it's real life, and we need to do our jobs.

Bishop represents the First Congressional District in Utah.