Last Friday, President Biden signed a temporary spending bill passed earlier in the week by the House and Senate, averting a government shutdown. The new Speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), took a novel tactic, proposing a two-tiered approach to the extension that ultimately garnered bipartisan support. Some programs - including transportation - are extended through January 19, 2024. That package also includes energy, water, and military construction programs that tend to be popular and relatively easier to negotiate. The rest, including thornier areas just as defense, health, and education, are extended to February 2, 2024.
The Speaker’s stated objective was to avoid getting jammed with a year-end omnibus bill and continue to try to advance individual spending priorities. Democrats supported it because it maintained current funding levels and did not include any objectionable policy provisions. This short reprieve will push the broader budget debate past the holidays and into early next year. House and Senate leaders remain far apart on topline spending levels. They also continue to negotiate over supplemental funding requests for Israel, Ukraine, domestic disaster response, and the border.
So, crisis averted – for now. The lights stay on. But this continued cycle of brinksmanship is not likely to let up as we head into an already unsettled election year. This is not a climate conducive to compromise or dealmaking. It’s kind of like watching kids in the neighborhood having a snowball fight. The hard left and hard right continue lobbing snowballs at one another while the rest of the country watches warily from the porch.
The fact is, there are still Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle compelled to service, and who take their oaths seriously. It’s not surprising that among those ranks are 19 Members with engineering backgrounds, who bring their bias for action and problem-solving to bear for their constituents every day. I truly believe that if there were more engineers in government, there would be a lot less rancor and a lot more reason.
More than a dozen Members of Congress have announced that they will not seek reelection next year, with more retirements almost certain to come. (The holiday season is often the time when retirement announcements begin to ramp up.) So here is my call to action for this week: continue to get involved in politics – in your town, in your district, in your state. I’ll even take it a step further and suggest considering a run for office yourselves! I know better than anyone the talent, brilliance, and passion for service within ACEC, and I know that there is a wealth of outstanding leadership in our ranks.
I have been an observer of politics for a long time. And in that time, I’ve seen sweeping shifts of the pendulum of power, and heated debates over deeply held principles. That is as it should be. But more and more, we are seeing anger and antagonization being passed off as debate. We have to do better. And who is better equipped than engineers to fix something that isn’t working as efficiently as it should?
Wishing you and your families a warm and safe Thanksgiving,
Linda Bauer Darr
President & CEO
American Council of Engineering Companies | ACEC