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Yet another standoff

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By Optic Editorial Board

Here we go again.

With seven days left before the end of the federal fiscal year, the politicians in Washington, D.C., are once again playing Russian Roulette with the economy.

In order to avert a government shutdown, Congress and President Obama must sign off on a budget. Seems simple enough, right?

But instead of working together to reach consensus on the federal budget, congressional Republicans are once again availing themselves of the opportunity to stick it to the president. The House of Representatives, which has a Republican majority, voted Friday to approve legislation that would continue to fund the federal government through Dec. 15. But it came with a catch. The bill withholds funding for the health care reform law.

The bill has no chance of making it through the Democratic-led Senate, and even if it did, there is no way that Obama would sign off on it.

Without an approved budget, parts of the federal government would shut down on Oct. 1, and non-essential federal employees would be sent home without pay. Those receiving Social Security would still get their checks, but new applications wouldn’t be processed. Museums and national parks would close. Small business loan applications would not be reviewed. And many government contractors wouldn’t be paid.

Among those warning against a shutdown are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf.

Sadly, the battle over the budget is likely to be just the beginning. Even if Congress and the president reach middle ground on that issue, they will still need to agree on raising the government’s debt ceiling. And given the history, we’re likely to see another standoff on that issue as well.

It’s worth noting that congressional Republicans have been trying unsuccessfully for years to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the controversial health care reform law that goes into effect this year. Perhaps they should realize that they lost that battle and that it’s time to move on.

Playing games with the economy and with people’s lives serves no purpose. Congress needs to pass a responsible budget so the federal government can continue operating, and then it needs to raise the debt ceiling so that the U.S. doesn’t default on its obligations.

To do anything else would be irresponsible.