A failure to govern

by Tom Cole

For nearly a year, Democrats have been so fixated on advancing their radical, multi-trillion-dollar policy priorities that they have failed to make any bipartisan progress on the basic task Congress has to provide full-year funding for the government. This failure to govern was on full display last week with the introduction and passage of yet another temporary solution to fund the federal government – this time until February 18, 2022.

Known as a “continuing resolution” or “CR,” this sort of short-term funding measure continues spending levels at current levels and keeps existing policies in place for a specified period. CRs come into play when funding is set to expire, either because the fiscal year or a current stopgap is ending. If funding expires before annual appropriations bills are finalized by Congress and signed into law, CRs can be used to avoid a government shutdown. However, funding only by CRs abdicates Congress’ ability to adjust spending and policies to reflect the country’s changing needs and priorities.

The process by which Congress is supposed to adjust spending each year involves hearings, discussions and markups in the 12 subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Each of those subcommittees writes an annual funding bill, which together cover operations for the entire federal government. By neglecting to pass each of the 12 annual funding bills, lawmakers irresponsibly forgo the opportunity to make changes to spending and deliver any authorized funding, creating a lot of uncertainty for the various departments across the federal government.

As you might know, the federal government is now being funded with the second CR since the fiscal year began on October 1. Meanwhile, Congress is no closer to providing final funding bills for the president to sign into law than it was with the previous CR, and that is because Democrats have not even bothered to negotiate with Republicans. Instead of doing their jobs, they have sought to advance legislation to make government bigger and satisfy the radical wing of their party while irresponsibly putting trillions on the taxpayer tab.

Although the House Appropriations Committee on which I serve reported 12 of its bills and the House sent nine to the Senate, a lot must change before anything can make it to the president’s desk. Most importantly, defense spending must go up, domestic spending must come down and longstanding pro-life language, like the bipartisan Hyde and Weldon amendments, must be fully restored. Unless there is real movement by Democrats to negotiate across the aisle in good faith, I fear the reality will be yet another temporary solution when the current CR expires in mid-February.

Endlessly kicking the can down the road is no way to govern, and it wholly fails the American people. Sadly, Democrats have thus far shown they are uninterested in reaching a bipartisan full-year spending deal. Instead, they have focused solely on their massive reconciliation bill and enshrining radical policies into law. However, the sooner they get serious about governing and working with Republicans to complete the appropriations process, the better for the country. Failing to do so will bring serious consequences, both at home and abroad.

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