OK, the party’s over. Now, lawmakers and the White House need to get back to work.
On Monday, politicians in the nation’s capital took a day off from the constant verbal jabs and occasional haymakers that comprise today’s political rhetoric to celebrate the swearing-in of America’s chief executive officer, President Barack Obama, for a second four-year term. The event coincided with the federal holiday for the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which added to the atmosphere given that Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, had his public ceremony and celebration events on the day dedicated to the man who led the fight for civil rights a half-century earlier.
While there are always pockets of discontent, Monday was a day that people of all political stripes could recognize the significance of a political system that allows for the orderly and peaceful transition — or continuance — of power for a set period of time.
It was a day that the Republic should celebrate.
It also presents a sense of renewal, a feeling of a fresh start. But that is only a feeling. Every challenge that America faced at the close of 2012 is still a challenge here in early 2013. The problems that face our nation still exist, and it is time for lawmakers and the president to roll up their collective sleeves and tackle them.
The first order of business is to get a handle on the federal budget. Congress’s one great task is a job it has shirked for four years now, failing to approve a federal spending plan.
A first step in that likely will take place Wednesday when the House is expected to take up an extension of the borrowing limit, which is now $16.4 trillion — a number the government has already hit. Without congressional action, the federal government will not be able to borrow more money, resulting in an inability to pay some debts as early as next month. That would damage the United States’ credit rating again.
Under the House plan, the U.S. Department of the Treasury would be empowered to borrow an unspecified amount to meet all U.S. obligations until May 19. The Treasury would only have the authority to borrow funding sufficient to pay bills through that date, not through the end of the fiscal year which runs through September.
Another part of the legislation would hit lawmakers’ wallets if they fail to perform their job of approving a budget resolution by April 15, a day that is familiar to all U.S. taxpayers and one that was no doubt chosen because of that. If a chamber of Congress fails to pass a spending plan by that day, the paychecks for the lawmakers in that chamber would be held in escrow until their chamber acts.
Whether this is a sincere approach or another political show is anyone’s guess, but if the thought of missing a paycheck can get senators and representatives to see the wisdom of working together for the common good, we’re all for it.