Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has angered major veterans’ groups by refusing to embrace an offer from Congress to provide advance two-year funding of the entire VA budget as protection in the event of another government shutdown.
While acknowledging that such legislation, which has support in both the House and Senate, would avoid disruption in veterans’ benefits programs, Shinseki made the point that veterans still would be hurt in a shutdown because many VA programs are inextricably intertwined with other federal agencies.
True enough. But another more basic theme runs through this discussion, one that speaks to a traditional core trait of our national character: basic fairness.
Without question, veterans deserve to be protected from the myriad adverse effects of a government shutdown.
But so do the tens of millions of other Americans who receive government benefits — many of whom depend on that assistance for such basic needs as keeping roofs over their heads and food on their tables.
Shutting down the government simply is not an acceptable way to govern — and any lawmakers who think it is should not be able to shield themselves from the political consequences by picking and choosing who gets hurt and who doesn’t.
Congress must stop the petty squabbling and find common ground for a budget compromise that puts an end to the constant lurching from one paralyzing short-fuse crisis to another.
As Shinseki put it: “What would be most helpful [is] for Congress to pass a budget every year so the federal government can do what it is supposed to do.”
Just so, Mr. Secretary. Just so.