A government shutdown became more likely last week as the House passed a new continuing resolution (CR) opposed by President Obama and Senate Democrats. In a process that lasted most of the week, nearly 600 amendments were offered during over 60 hours of debate. According to the Appropriations Committee, floor amendments increased the bill's initial $61 billion in cuts by more than $620 million.
Democrats support an alternative that would freeze spending at 2010 levels. President Obama has threatened to veto the House bill, and the possibility of a government shutdown increased when House Speaker John Boehner said he would oppose another short-term CR that would continue 2010 spending levels. To avoid a shutdown, an agreement must be reached before the current CR expires March 4.
The $14 trillion federal debt requires Congress to make difficult choices, but a government shutdown should not be one of them. Both parties should quickly resolve their differences over appropriations that are less than 40 percent of the budget. Then Congress should focus at least as much attention on entitlement programs that account for the majority of federal spending.