- - Wednesday, July 5, 2017


The impending possibility of a government shutdown due to the failure of Congress to raise the debt limit presents an interesting opportunity for President Trump. The federal government’s activities are authorized by statute. They do not require appropriations in order to be carried out. In fact, George Washington established the basic District of Columbia, including government structures, with only an authorization from Congress and no appropriation. Jimmy Carter was the first president in my memory to claim that he had to shut down the government if Congress allowed funding to lapse. Before that, presidents instructed federal employees to show up and dare Congress to fail to pay them (I am one of those who worked for the government when a short lapse was expected).

Indeed, after all recent shutdowns, Congress later paid the federal employees for the time that they had not worked. Mr. Carter claimed that he had to shut down government because employees working without appropriations were making illegal donations to the government. As usual, he was wrong. Federal agencies are allowed to accept donations for authorized activities.

I doubt that Mr. Trump will confront Congress, not because he would not like the exercise, but because he probably will not be informed that he has the power.


Virginia Beach, Va.

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