Whose side are you on?

On Friday, March 22, the federal government could initial a partial shutdown of some federal departments.

Legislative negotiators are working around the clock to avoid a shutdown.

This time, 60% of civilian federal employees could be affected.

This is the fifth time since September 2023 that Congress has faced a funding deadline.

The first four times, including once earlier this month, Congress acted just in the nick of time to avoid a shutdown.

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider six spending bills, which fund the Defense, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services (HHS), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) departments.

If no agreement is reached by the 22nd, furloughs and shutdowns could happen.

On Wednesday, March 6, the House passed a $450 billion funding package by a vote of 339-85, with 207 Democrats and 132 Republicans voting for the six bills.

Those bills provided funding for Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, Justice, Commerce and Energy.

The six bills being considered now are more difficult to get passed because conservatives (Freedom Caucus) in the House want their demands taken seriously.

They insist border security be addressed and agency funding cuts be done before they will support passage.

Three observations:

First, Americans view a government shutdown as a failure.

They blame every elected official, regardless of Party.

Shutting down the government is politically dumb.

Since 1976, the government has ‘shut down’ twenty times.

Just four of the shutdowns were multiday, with the longest being 35 days.

It is difficult to calculate, but contingency plans cost money and private contractors factor the possibility of a shutdown into their pricing, a government shutdown may actually cost, not save taxpayers money.

A 2019 U.S. Senate report found three shutdowns (2013, 2018, 2019) wasted $4 billion of tax dollars.

Second, some of the government should be permanently shut down.

Is a government position classified as “non-essential,” needed?

That is a good question.

Essential vs. non-essential, when it comes to government jobs, means does the job involve safeguarding life or property?

Air traffic controllers safeguard life and are designated essential.

The entire Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doesn’t safeguard life and those positions are considered non-essential.

Not every non-essential position should be eliminated, but every government position should justify its value to taxpayers or be cut.

That should be an ongoing process and not something done through government shutdowns.

Third, House Republicans have to learn to fly in formation.

The current breakdown in the House is 219 Republicans and 213 Democrats.

The GOP has a razor-thin majority.

All told, 42 of those 219 GOP members are members of the Freedom Caucus.

Another 41 are members of the Republican Governance Group, a moderate Republican caucus.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, has to have both groups in order to get anything done, which is why so little gets done.

When 40% of your total caucus are diametrically opposed to each other, Johnson and the House leadership are hard-pressed to get legislation passed.

In the ‘Top Gun’ original film, Pete Mitchell (Maverick), while a great pilot, wasn’t a team player.

He was a renegade and mutineer, often rebelling against authority and ignoring rules.

Pete wouldn’t fly in formation and hated the routine and mundane.

Iceman famously told him it wasn’t Maverick’s flying skills that were the issue – it was his attitude.

Because Pete wouldn’t adhere to holding in the pattern, he put the mission at risk.

Ice asked Mav: “Whose side are you on?”

House Republicans, on both ends of the political spectrum, should ask themselves the same question.

NOTES: Steve Fair is Vice Chairman of the Fourth Congressional District for the Oklahoma Republican Party. He can be reached by email at steve.fair@ymail.com. His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com