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GOP Battling Windmills When It Should Be Budgeting

20 Sep 2011
Posted by Stan Collender

I know this will be a shock for many CG&G readers, but I try to call it pretty much straight down the middle when it comes to Republicans, Democrats and the budget.  This time, the GOP deserved to be called out...and then some...on the unnecessary pain it's trying to put the country through on the continuing resolution.  The technical term for the Republican plan is "BS."

Republicans Battling Windmills Instead of Budgeting

By Stan Collender
Roll Call Contributing Writer
Sept. 20, 2011, Midnight

The question that everyone should be asking is: Why is the House GOP only proposing a short-term continuing resolution?

This should be the moment when either individual appropriations or a full-year CR at the start of the year is not just easy to do but actually gets done.

The House, Senate and White House all agreed to the spending level for fiscal 2012 when the president signed the Budget Control Act on Aug. 2, almost two months before the fiscal year starts.

The fight to get there was so exceptionally hard-fought (to say the least) and the wounds from those battles are still so painful that only a handful of Members, and even less of the voting public, seem eager to do it all again anytime soon.

And polls taken since the BCA was signed definitively show that the high-stakes, hold-out-to-the-absolutely-last-minute politics of the debt ceiling fight were very damaging to those held responsible for it. Congressional Republicans so far seem to be the ones who have taken it on the political chin the most.

Under these circumstances, it’s logical to think that the preferred strategy for the House GOP would be a full-year CR rather than a short-term bill. Not only would that avoid another budget-related knock-down fight while the scars from the last one have not yet healed, but it also wouldn’t preclude any other spending decision from being made on the individual bills if and when they’re considered.

If the tried and true procedure is used, the CR will simply stop applying to the departments and agencies when the separate appropriation is signed. In appropriations-speak, those covered by the individual spending bill will “disengage” from the CR.

But logic doesn’t seem to be the motivator that it should be on the fiscal 2012 continuing resolution.

The House this week is supposed to consider a continuing resolution — presumably endorsed by the GOP leadership — that would keep the government funded until only Nov. 18.

This needs to be said as directly as possible: There is no practical reason for a seven-week continuing resolution in this situation. A short-term CR such as this one will force Congress and the White House to spend additional time debating and passing a second funding bill less than two months from now that is absolutely unnecessary.

This is the same Congress that frequently talks about a two-year budget because of complaints that the process already takes up way too much energy and political capital. Hearings have been held about having fewer steps in the budget process so that time can be devoted to increased oversight and other priorities that now get short shrift.

But given a real opportunity at the seemingly perfect time to expedite the budget process without losing control over anything that affects the government’s bottom line, the House GOP instead is proposing a short-term CR that will add rather than subtract steps. It will devote even more time to the budget when there’s ample evidence of extreme fiscal fatigue.

The commonly assumed but unstated reason for a short-term CR is that the House GOP wants to have increased political leverage on budget and other issues by being able to hold yet another potential government shutdown over the heads of Congressional Democrats and the White House. This time it supposedly will be policy riders — changes in authorizations — rather than spending levels that will be the biggest points of contention. Multiple CRs will mean frequent opportunities for House Republicans to impose their preferences on non-budget issues and using appropriations to do it.

This will sound quaint to some and unimaginable to others, but there was a time when doing what the GOP apparently is planning by authorizing on appropriations bills was considered by most Members of Congress to be as much a major legislative sin as usurping another committee’s jurisdiction.

Even though the Constitution doesn’t require authorizations, the overwhelmingly accepted practice over the years by both political parties has been not to include policy changes in appropriations bills and to work hard to prevent it from happening. In fact, authorizing in an appropriations bill has been considered so taboo on Capitol Hill that Republicans and Democrats on the authorization committee that would be affected by the proposal typically have worked together to prevent it from happening.

Although it certainly has happened before, the short-term CR means the traditional separation of authorizations and appropriations is about to be willfully abandoned with the full consent of the authorizing committees themselves.

The irony here is that a seven-week CR and the resulting multiple additional debates and votes on the other continuing resolutions that will be needed because of it will mean that Congress will have much less time to work on the authorization bills in which the policy changes should be considered.

It will also mean that the Appropriations committees, rather than the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction created by the Budget Control Act, will be the true super committees because no issue — spending–related or otherwise — will be beyond their reach.

It will also mean that the already much-maligned Congressional budget process will get sullied further as frequent and unnecessary debate after debate after debate occurs.

"This needs to be said as

"This needs to be said as directly as possible: There is no practical reason for a seven-week continuing resolution in this situation. A short-term CR such as this one will force Congress and the White House to spend additional time debating and passing a second funding bill less than two months from now that is absolutely unnecessary."

This is totally wrong. There is an extremely practical reason for the GOP's behavior. The GOP affirmatively wants to completely destroy the ability of the federal government to govern and to completely eliminate its credibility with the citizenry.

The mainstream media refuses to tell the truth that there is one political party that--while certainly unduly influenced by special interests that aren't proxies for the overall good of the nation--is trying to govern, and another political party that is trying to discredit and destroy the government. They continue to promulgate the lie that the Democrats and Republicans have "differences of opinion" about how best to govern.


I doubt we'll see a real budget bill till November 2012

The GOP has decided that the best way to accomplish their goal of keeping the economy weak (if not outright pushing it into recession) is to drag the budget process out as long as possible. I suspect we won't see another full-length budget until after the elections, with a series of 6-7 week CRs to keep pushing this nonsense as long as possible.

In a sane world, voters would start wondering why it is that people who refuse to do the job they were sent to Washington for expect to get reelected.


Go you Stan

It is refreshing to see the possibilities of possibilities - for example Bruce's often-data cite point that the majority of the country isn't opposed to tax increased, whereas all the Republican Presindetial candidates have pledged not to raise taxes, and, this further enchilada of ridiculous behavior after the Republican Congress grand-standed to the last minute, and then punted the ball down the road, gave themselves the month of July off, and left town. I really don't think this makes the Republicans look good, and it appeared that Obama is taking things seriously, taking the balanced tax increase, spending cut that Pete had mentioned is typically how in fact things happen.


I have to agree...

We have, easily, a third of the representatives in Congress that wish to dismantle government as we know it. The flavor of the moment is "Libertarianism." It all sounds good on the surface, but what they fail to realize is that our government has evolved over time to solve problems that the citizenry believed needed solving. Dismantling the solution doesn't make the problem go away.

The Confederacy was a perfect model of small government footprint and state-centric control. Look how well that turned out.


Why are we paying 535 members of Congress?

Why are we paying for 535 members of Congress when only a dozen or so members make all of the decisions for the entire group? The rest seem to be redundant. Thanks to the House leadership, it's clear that the American people no longer have any need for their own political representation.


So the Democrats in the house

So the Democrats in the house of representatives in the 1980's didn't try to run the government by policy riders?

I thought they micromanaged a lot of activity in executive branch agencies.

If we are in the kind of environment where the President can simply set aside large parts of immigration law enforcement, why would you expect Republicans to just sit passively on policy matters?




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