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Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Near-Shutdown Experience: A 'Perfect Example'?

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Obama-Lincoln-tourists.jpgIn the immediate aftermath of Friday's extremely near-miss on a shutdown of federal operations, politicians were falling all over themselves to congratulate each other for finally coming together on a deal. On the House and Senate floors, leaders gushed about their willingness to hammer out an agreement. President Obama thanked House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "for their leadership and their dedication during this process."

The next day, the president bounded up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to claim credit, on behalf of members of Congress, for keeping it from being closed to tourists. "I just wanted to say, real quick, that because Congress was able to settle its differences, that's why this place is open today and everybody's able to enjoy their visit," he said, as if the absence of the closure of a facility that the tourists had paid to keep open with their tax dollars was an accomplishment.

Also on Saturday, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer chimed in, writing on the White House blog that "last night was a perfect example of Democrats and Republicans coming together, working tirelessly to hammer out a deal and making the tough choices to live within our means."

A "perfect example"?

Congress waited until six months of the fiscal year had passed before getting serious about finalizing a budget. Lawmakers had to pass no fewer than seven short-term funding measures to get a spending deal in place, and it still hasn't formally been passed by both chambers. Legislators bickered endlessly over relatively small amounts of money. They were sidetracked by dozens of non-budget-related issues thrown into the last-minute legislation. They actually technically didn't even pass the latest stopgap measure until after the deadline had passed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of federal employees were on edge all week, wondering whether they were supposed to come to work on Monday and, if not, whether they would lose pay for whatever length of time the government was closed. Agencies had to spend much of last week not doing the work they were supposed to do, but instead implementing shutdown plans they had been forced to update because of the budget brinksmanship.

This whole process wasn't a "perfect example" of anything except how not to run a railroad.

 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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