Issue in Focus
Jan 26 2018
A week ago, the government shuttered its doors. For roughly 68 hours, the men and women of our armed services did not know when they would receive their next paycheck.
When the government reopened, it was because Congress passed and the President signed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that allowed the government to be funded – but only for three weeks. And the CR passed this Monday was needed because the four-week CR before that ran out. And that CR was preceded by another CR that passed right before Christmas.
This of governing-by-cliff has unfortunately become the status quo in Washington. The fact is, Congress has not completed all twelve regular appropriations bills by the October 1st deadline since 1997, and between 1985 and 1997, this important budget marker has only been met twice.
Instead we’ve been governed by a quilt work of Continuing Resolutions, Omnibuses, and rushed budget agreements, many of which are held until the last minute so lawmakers are unable to read their contents in full. The result is instability and unpredictability not only in our government organizations, but also for the many families and businesses that interact with the federal government.
This is not a responsible way to govern. It’s bad for our military, it’s bad for our citizens, and it’s bad for our form of government.
Who it is good for is a small handful of people who are responsible for making these decisions. Every time one of these CRs pass, they gain a little more power for themselves.
This is why I have yet to vote for a CR during my seven years in Congress. We cannot change the system while constantly voting to support it. And more and more of my colleagues are coming to agree with me.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-PA) re-introduced the End Government Shutdowns Act in April 2017. This bill would automatically keep discretionary programs, like our military, funded at their pre-deadline levels for 120 days, but then as every additional 90 days passes without a new appropriation bill, their funding drops by 1%. All discretionary spending is treated equally; no partisan carve-outs and no exceptions.
This strikes a necessary balance between incentivizing good budgeting habits while discouraging last-minute, haphazard stopgap funding measures. And it provides stability and predictability without allowing Congress to pat ourselves on the back for averting a self-made crisis.