Small groups of elected officials in Washington spend a lot of time these days talking about the need to shut the government down.

The ease with which these officials, elected by the public to run the government, discuss paying public employees to stay home is irresponsible.

Debating funding for Planned Parenthood is a fully legitimate issue. A vigorous debate among lawmakers is appropriate on any matter of federal funding.

But a decision on whether any funding is approved should be made through the regular decision-making process inherent in our representative form of government.

That process involves a vote up or down. Then if there is a veto, a vote on overriding that veto. Neither side in a debate — conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat — should resort to the tactic of shutting down the government because it can't garner enough votes to prevail.

Past experience, from October 2013, shows the folly of allowing government to collapse into such paralysis.

The 2013 shutdown cost taxpayers $2 billion in back pay to federal employees, the value of more than 6.6 million days of lost work, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The 2013 shutdown kicked cancer patients out of studies and delayed tax refunds. It delayed veterans' disability claims and slowed food and feed safety inspections. And, the Post reported, it cost the economy 120,000 private-sector jobs.

There's also the public costs of weeks of government agencies having to plan to shut down and then having to ramp operations back up.

All this damage, with no realistic chance of passing both houses of Congress with enough votes to overcome a presidential veto.

Does shutting down the government still sound responsible? It shouldn't. It's a strategy without an endgame, and taxpayers are the pawns.

That's why Midlands lawmakers in Washington should stand up for responsible action that keeps the government open.

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