Trump Border Wall

The Capitol is seen at day's end as the Senate works on a House-passed bill that would pay for President Donald Trump's border wall and avert a partial government shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The holidays have come and gone, landing us here in January, a month typically marked by somber self-appraisal and pledges to do better.

That kind of moral clarity is needed more than ever at the start of 2019, as the government of the most powerful country on earth enters the second week of a partial shutdown in its operations.

This isn’t American greatness, and it’s no way for a model democracy to start a new year. We urge members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation to do what they can to break the impasse, which involves President Donald Trump’s insistence that Congress fund a huge border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Security is important, but key parts of the border already have a wall.

In any event, candidate Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall. And even if that is a fantasy, the wall is hardly an issue worth shutting down the government.

Legislating on deadline has become a fact of life on Capitol Hill. The more shutdowns and crises, the less the people trust their government.

Ending the shutdown should be the first order of business as members of Congress return from the holidays, which were supposed to be a time of shared goodwill and pause from political strife. It’s a sad mark of our times that not even Christmas and New Year’s were immune from the nation’s toxic political environment. The days passed with business-as-usual posturing from the White House and Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, heavy rains after Christmas reminded us why we need a stable federal flood insurance program and a strong, engaged federal partner for important jobs like flood control. Although last month’s rains didn’t create a major flood event, they underscored the urgency to make Louisiana resilient against Mother Nature.

Members of the Louisiana delegation helped resolve a bureaucratic tangle from the shutdown that was preventing new flood insurance policies from being written. But such a workaround — and the anxiety it created among homebuyers — wouldn’t have been needed if the government had stayed open in the first place. The workaround came too late for some, and real estate closings were postponed because of the needless shutdown. Members of Congress blamed FEMA instead of themselves.

The president, who rose to fame as a star of reality television, seems to enjoy dramatizing conflict. In Louisiana, though, that show-biz act is old hat.

Last year, state lawmakers engaged in endless brinksmanship with the governor before reaching an inevitable deal to fund needed services. In Baton Rouge, we learned the hard way what the rest of the country is discovering about the federal government shutdown: Budget theater just wastes a lot of time while the people’s business goes undone.

It’s past time to end this charade, and fully open the U.S. government for business.