Don’t Settle

Sep 30 2016

Yesterday, the Senate passed a 10-week continuing resolution by a 72-26 vote. I voted against the bill and I want to explain why.

A continuing resolution is a bill that basically keeps the government funded through an autopilot type mechanism. It just keeps the government headed in the same direction. It doesn’t really change much.

Today’s continuing resolution comes just a couple of days before the expiration of the current spending bill that expires on September 30th. The problem with this is that we’ve known for a year that this was going to happen. We’ve known for a year that September 30th would arrive, that at that moment we would have to pass something or risk a government shutdown.

Now there was an effort to fund the government properly through itemized appropriations bills. And that effort was blocked by the Democrats. And they will have to answer for that.

But even if we are going to do it all in one bill, they ought to at least put it on the Senate floor, and allow us to debate it, and discuss it, and amend it, and make changes to it.

Instead, what ends up happening is that you have just a small handful of legislative leaders, negotiating in secret about what is going to be in the bill.

Then at the end of this long mysterious process, they emerge as if coming down from a mountain with stone tablets showing us what they have mysteriously put together. And at that point everyone is given a binary choice that is very unpleasant: either vote to pass this bill and keep the government funded or you vote no and a government shutdown ensues.

Well it doesn’t have to be that way and it shouldn’t be that way. The spending power that Congress has is one of the most important pieces of the constitutional puzzle. It has to mean something. If we allow it to be powerful, if we allow it to do what it was intended to, it really can work well.

James Madison described this power in Federalist 58. He said it was “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people for obtaining a redress of every grievance and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

But in order for every just and salutary measure to be covered, you have to allow every member an opportunity to offer improvements, to try and change things one way or another.

Anyone who purports to believe in constitutionally limited government ought to care enough about the process to make sure that Congress doesn’t become a rubber stamp for the small handful of legislative leaders who put themselves in charge of this behind-the-scenes, closed-door negotiation process.

We’ve been asked as a people for too long to simply settle. To simply settle for last minute legislation, for a government that’s always expanding, for a government that thinks its there to provide for our every need, that thinks its big enough and smart enough to make every decision for us. We’ve been asked to settle for too long.

Don’t settle.