- Florida lawmakers move to wipe corrupt ‘Boss Hogg’ town from map
- N.C. math whiz to unveil secret of March Madness picks
- An appealing offer: Chiquita merges with Fyffes to make world’s largest banana firm
- Amnesty International says Syria guilty of war crimes for food blockade
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: ‘We are going to crush them’
- Adam Lanza’s dad: He would’ve killed me ‘in a heartbeat’
- North Korea holds election: 100% turnout, Kim Jong-un gets — 100% of vote
- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
Another year, another stopgap bill instead of real budget
Congress is heading into the final stretch of its summer work period having passed none of its annual spending bills. What’s more, with the start of the next budget year some 70 days away, a tit-for-tat between the Democrat-controlled Senate and the GOP-run House means it’s unlikely that any of the bills will reach the president’s desk for his signature.
So with Capitol Hill calcified with partisan gridlock, lawmakers are gearing up for an all-too-familiar annual routine: kicking their appropriating responsibilities down the road by passing temporary, stopgap funding bills to avoid a government shutdown at the start of the next fiscal year Oct. 1.
A central duty of Congress is to appropriate money for the federal government to stay open, an annual process that is supposed to be handled through 12 major spending bills. By law, all such appropriations measures must originate in the House before moving on to the Senate. On Thursday, the House passed a 2013 spending plan for the Pentagon — the seventh appropriations bill to clear the lower chamber this year.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has refused to take up any of the House’s spending bills before the November elections, saying they include more cuts than Congress agreed to as part of last summer’s hotly contested compromise to raise the federal debt limit.
The debt deal called for discretionary spending to be capped at $1.047 trillion in 2013. Democrats view the number as a spending target, while Republicans say they are free — and morally obligated — to spend less.
“Until the Republicans get real, we can’t do [spending bills], because [House Republicans] have refused to adhere to the law that guides this country,” Mr. Reid said earlier this month.
Republicans say Mr. Reid is going back on his word because he said earlier this year that he would work to bring spending bills to the Senate floor for a vote. Because the Senate can ignore the House’s spending blueprints and draft its own versions, as is common, Republicans say, Mr. Reid’s argument about spending limits is irrelevant.
“There is no excuse whatsoever for not bringing up appropriations bills on the floor of the Senate,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, said during a floor speech Wednesday. “The reasons [Mr. Reid] gives are very puzzling.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers called Mr. Reid’s refusal to take up House-passed spending bills “absurd” and accused the Senate Democratic leadership team of “defaulting on their most basic fiscal duty.”
“The 12 annual appropriations bills cannot be swept under the rug and ignored until a more convenient political time,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Only twice since 2000 have both chambers passed all 12 appropriations bills in time for the start of the fiscal year, choosing instead to pass a series of stopgap measures that generally keep funding at the same levels, though some tweaks do occur. Congress didn’t pass any of its individual spending bills on time the past two years.
Relying on stopgap funding measures instead of individual appropriations bills delays needed action to lower the federal deficit and deal with long-term debt issues, said Darrell M. West, a political specialist with the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank.
“The problem with government by [stopgap measures] is it maintains the status quo, and the challenge today is, we need to make changes,” Mr. West said. “Just continuing to roll over the old budget into the new fiscal year doesn’t allow us to address the problems that everybody recognizes.”
Through much of Congress‘ history, passing and sending all dozen measures to the president for his signature was a practice that was expected and typically followed. But with the legislative branch and White House increasingly split between the two parties the past two decades, bitter political wrangling has led Congress to routinely fall short of its appropriations duties.
“Since the 1980s, we’ve been in divided government more often than we’ve had united governments, so it’s not unusual that this circumstance has occurred,” said Don Ritchie, the Senate’s official historian. “It’s generally easier to get things done when one party controls both houses [of Congress] and the White House.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
- GOP tests Democrats on college loan issue
- Lawmakers outside intelligence loop get miffed about briefing structure in Congress
- John Boehner: Time is right to bring latest farm bill to House floor
- Supreme Court nears rulings on key voting rights cases
- John Boehner demands answers on NSA, phone records
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Investigators puzzle: How does a 777 jetliner just disappear into thin air?
- Russia besieges Crimea as U.S. seeks diplomacy; Putin remains undeterred by Obama's sanctions
- As Crimea falls, Obama takes Key Largo golf vacation, Biden hits Virgin Islands
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- CURL: Today's GOP really is Reagan's 'Big Tent' party
- Adam Lanza's dad: He would've killed me 'in a heartbeat'
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again