As the shutdown showdown progressed, the term “political football” got thrown around to the point of cliché.
Some lawmakers said immigration programs were being used as a political football. Some thought child health care became a political football. House Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii and an Army National Guard major, scolded fellow lawmakers for “playing political football with issues of humanity,” which covers … well, pretty much everything.
It’s impossible to carve out exceptions for every “political football.” If lawmakers were able to take everyone’s concerns and balance them against the needs of the nation, then fund them commensurate to their importance, they’d be creating what’s known as a “budget.” That’s crazy talk, and you can’t spell “crazy” without “CR.”
But there’s a fix that needs made: Lawmakers should follow the advice of Ken Fisher, chairman and CEO of the Fisher House Foundation, and make it clear that in any future federal shutdown, the military’s $100,000 death gratuity will be paid out in accordance with the wishes of the fallen service member.
Fisher’s foundation stepped up in 2013 to pay the benefit as the government went dark. It offered to do so again this time around. It’ll likely offer again, if necessary, next month.
It shouldn’t be necessary. Ever.
Kudos to the foundation for trying to make things right, but if lawmakers can’t get out of their own way in the ongoing battle of budget brinkmanship, they can at least pass a bill that would make paying the gratuity an essential government function — maybe even more essential than other services that continue during the shutdown, such as the processing of lawmakers’ paychecks.