The budget race

With seven days to go until the fiscal year ends, we still do not know whether the government will have money to meet its obligations after that date or it will have to stop paying its employees, beneficiaries and contractors.

Those are the results of a House of Representatives that is so dysfunctional that is has been unable to achieve any action that is not an attack on the Obama administration.

Unfortunately, this history has repeated itself in recent decades, at times when we have had a Republican House of Representatives and a Democratic White House, like now and in the 1990s.

In those cases, there has always been a reason to put the current president between a rock and a hard place, between achieving a certain political objective and having the government shut down for lack of funds—since the lower chamber controls the purse strings, according to the Constitution.

The reason now is that an ultraconservative sector of the majority is crusading against the health care reform. The strategy is killing the reform by defunding it, despite the fact that millions of Americans are already benefiting and that precisely next Tuesday, beneficiaries can start enrolling. This is an absurd battle, and if it is about repealing a law, that is not the way to accomplish it.

The situation would not be as urgent if some of the 12 budget appropriations had been approved. But disagreement among the majority has prevented the passage of even one.

As a result, the only concrete action on budget matters is an extension until mid-December, as long as Obamacare is defunded.

Experience tells us that if there is a deal, it will be in the eleventh hour—and if there is a government shutdown, Republicans will be to blame for being intransigent and irresponsible. There are still several days to show that the lessons have been learned and to take action, once and for all, for the good of Americans instead of that of extremists.