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Editorial: Shut down shutdowns

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U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., speaks at the unveiling of the official portrait of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. Alexander said Monday he is not running for re-election in 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The longest government shutdown may have done the impossible.

It got some Republicans and Democrats to agree on the need for some kind of wall. Unfortunately for President Trump, what they want to wall off is the option to shut down the federal government.

Legislators from both parties have openly said they don’t want to see the kind of thing that happened with the 35-day impasse that ended Friday happen again.

“Shutting down the government should be as off-limits in budget negotiations as chemical warfare is in real warfare,” said the GOP’s Sen. Lamar Alexander on Friday .

Other Republicans were equally outspoken, including Sen. Rob Portman, who put out a plan that would keep government tripping along amid negotiations, with stepped 1 percent cuts after four months and seven months as a nudge to keep the conversation on track.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner countered with his own plan, poignantly named the Stop STUPIDITY Act. His idea? If you’re going to cut funding to something, make it Congress and the White House.

Lots of people have had ideas about how to end shutdowns. Lock people in a room. Don’t let people go home until a compromise is reached. Be tough. Be accommodating. Come to the table. Walk away. Make them come to you. Whatever you do, be sure you come out on top.

Now that we have almost three weeks to make sure there is no encore of the recent contest of wills, maybe our leaders can focus on solutions instead of wins.

But once that’s past, let’s revisit Alexander’s and Warner’s ideas but do them one better.

Instead of finding a way out of a shutdown, let’s find a way to prevent one. (Harrisburg? You could pay attention to this, too.)

Maybe we could actually make and stick by a budget. No stop-gap measures and continuing resolutions. Let’s make a new budget, or let’s keep going under the old one.

Let’s quit pulling out switchblades over the debt ceiling votes and realize that we have no choice when it comes to paying for things we already said we would pay. Let’s say that when we have a good idea for a program we want to fund, we make paying for it part of passing it.

Let’s require our federal government to run things, if not the way we run our homes, then at least the way we demand lower levels of government work.

A school board doesn’t get to close school just because there is disagreement about paying for STEM or paying for music. Pennsylvania schools have kept going even when Harrisburg’s budget tantrums have meant months of borrowing to cover shortfalls.

And if the people in Washington can’t find a way to make this work, let’s find people who can.