Congress is taking the right steps in proposing an “automatic continuing resolution,” which would ensure that the government stays open even if appropriations bills are not passed. But it needs to address some possible pitfalls early on.
Third, an automatic continuing resolution should sunset after a few years, because it might have unforeseen consequences and might otherwise be hard to reverse. Early 2021 would be a good expiration date, since it would get us through the current administration.
If Congress were doing a great job managing the budget, it would make sense to ignore the automatic continuing resolution. But we’ve tried the current process for 45 years and appropriations bills have often gone unenacted, leaving the government to rely on short-term, band-aid solutions. This creates significant uncertainty, which curtails individuals’ and business’ ability to plan ahead and limits the usefulness of government programs.