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With the Unnecessary Shutdown Over, We Can Get Back to the Important Issues Before Congress

I’ve been frustrated with Washington’s broken budget process since coming to the Senate three years ago. Under our current system, rather than debating and passing appropriations bills to fund the government for a full year at a time, we have been operating under short-term, stopgap funding measures called “Continuing Resolutions” to keep the government open for just a few months or weeks at a time. Continuing Resolutions (CR) largely extend last year’s spending levels and fail to provide long-term certainty and stability. Of particular concern to me is the impact that short-term funding bills have on our military.


This broken process, coupled with partisan, political gamesmanship from our Democrat colleagues, recently led to a three-day “government shutdown.” Even though Senate Democrats did not disagree with the contents of the CR, which would have funded the government through Feb. 16 and reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, they voted to shut down the government, thinking it would give them more leverage to pass DACA legislation. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and refers to the children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children. DACA has been part of a set of issues we are working on to strengthen border security and reform the H2B visa program, among other immigration-related matters.

This strategy of shutting down the government over DACA never made much sense because there was already broad bipartisan support to making permanent changes to the law for DACA recipients as well as the other immigration and border issues. I have been deeply involved in discussions that seek to find a way forward on immigration. Throughout these conversations, my focus has been on border security and H2B visa reform, which is very important to South Dakota’s seasonal tourism and construction businesses.


After three days, our Democrat colleagues agreed to end the shutdown and pass a Continuing Resolution through Feb. 8, 2018, citing assurances from Senate Majority Leader McConnell that we would consider DACA legislation, something we had all agreed we must take up in the near future anyway. While I don’t understand why some senators felt they needed to demand something that was already in the works, I’m pleased the unnecessary crisis ended.


Now we can focus again on bipartisan H2B visa reform, border security and DACA talks, fixing our broken budget system and adequately funding our troops. I’ve been working daily with a growing group of bipartisan senators on an immigration and spending proposal, and we continue to make progress on these important issues.


While we are moving forward with these immediate issues, we must reform our broken budget process as a whole and stop governing from crisis to crisis. Short-term CRs are no way to run a government and I will continue to work toward reforms to our budget process so we don’t get ourselves into this mess again. With our country’s 250th birthday just eight years away in 2026, the time is now to address the inefficient way that Congress manages taxpayers’ dollars.