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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.

Yay! We’re Back to Traditional Dysfunctional Spending Negotiations

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Architect of the Capitol

In the wake of the longest government shutdown in history, negotiations over a massive federal spending measure have returned to their traditional level of dysfunction. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing, because at least then there’s some level of predictability to the process. Indeed, it usually unfolds in some or all of the following stages. (Keep in mind that between any of them, a shutdown could occur or continuing resolution be enacted, in which case the process is rebooted at the beginning.)

  • We’re appointing a bipartisan group to get a deal worked out.
  • We’re making progress!
  • No wait, talks have stalled.
  • We are pleased to announce an agreement in principle!
  • Veiled/actual presidential veto threat.
  • Lawmaker not included on negotiating team: I don’t know anything about this deal, and may not support it.
  • Non-germane issue becomes bone of contention.
  • Random (or lately, Rand) senator filibuster threat.
  • To hell with it, we’re voting anyway.
  • We haven’t even had time to read this bill, and they’re asking us to vote on it!
  • Members of a particular House caucus threaten to pull support; only those facing a legitimate potential primary challenge actually do so.
  • Measure passes.
  • Partisans on both sides claim near-complete victory. Congressional leaders say no one got all they wanted, but a spirit of compromise prevailed that heralds the possibility of a new era of bipartisanship. (Such an era does not ensue.)
  • President reluctantly signs it, while decrying the whole process.

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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