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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Feb. 22, 2024

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In Our View: Time for U.S. lawmakers to get work done

The Columbian

Now that the chaos has abated in the U.S. House of Representatives — at least temporarily — it is time to get some work done. Issues surrounding the funding of the federal government, national security and the Farm Bill are priorities as representatives focus on legislating rather than infighting.

Majority Republicans on Wednesday finally settled on Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana — a 2020 election denier — to lead their chamber, 22 days after a mutiny led to the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as speaker. The division among Republicans has been an embarrassment by any measure, leading to questions about the party’s willingness and ability to govern.

Looking ahead, the most pressing is funding the federal government. A tepid budget deal reached in late September avoided a shutdown, but that agreement was for 45 days. Funding will run out on Nov. 17, again placing a possible shutdown at the forefront.

“Because of the absolute nonsense of the last four weeks, I think the chance of a shutdown went from 10 percent four or five weeks ago to probably something more like a coin flip,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., told The Washington Post this week. “The last four weeks have not provided me with a lot of reason to be optimistic that Republicans are going to have our act together. … We need to be aware that, any given day, eight or 10 people can decide they want to blow the whole thing up.”

Those divisions within the party have not served the American people well. Because Republicans have a slim majority in the House, a relatively small rogue group has wielded inordinate power. The result has been three weeks of ignoring the people’s business, with the House unable to consider legislation as a series of candidates were considered for speaker.

While arguments among party members are a welcome part of our system of government, in the end that system requires two functioning parties. There is a difference between disagreement and dysfunction.

As Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., reportedly told his colleagues during a closed-door caucus meeting: “Let’s get our poop in a group, people. We’ve got to figure this out. I don’t want us to go out there and, in front of the entire world, puke on our shoes again. That’s what we’ve been doing.”

During the spewing, global events that can affect national security have continued. The Biden administration has requested $106 billion in support for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the southern U.S. border. The Senate has been considering the request while the House has been dickering, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said international threats are part of a “worldwide problem that needs to be dealt with entirely, not in piecemeal.”

The same can be said for a package of legislation known collectively as the Farm Bill. The legislation has a broad impact on farmers and the nation’s food supply and comes up for renewal every five years.

Republicans plan to co-opt conservation funds from the Inflation Reduction Act for the Farm Bill, which is certain to draw stern opposition.

The previous Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, and gridlock in the House has halted debate about the legislation. A replacement is expected no sooner than December and observers say the issue could linger into next year.

The delay is lamentable, but the promise that the House will now focus on policy rather than discord is encouraging. The hope is that it lasts into the foreseeable future.