America Needs a Real Budget Process

The government shutdown is over and the political elites in Washington, D.C. decided to pass a short-term budget, known as a Continuing Resolution, while fully funding Obamacare. 

They made sure furloughed federal employees will be paid for their 16-day vacation. Without giving the public a chance to read the compromise, members of Congress added lots of additional spending, such as a $2.1 billion increase for funding a dam under construction in Kentucky, $450 million for flood relief in Colorado, and $174,000 to the widow of multi-millionaire Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.

Congress used to pass actual budgets for entire fiscal years. So when did Continuing Resolutions become the norm?

From the founding of our country until 1921, the federal budget process was decentralized and chaotic. Congress received budget requests in a sloppy manner from each administration, which led to the beginning of deficit spending.

Once the process of funding the government became too large and complicated to handle that way, Congress passed the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 and created the Bureau of the Budget (now known as the Office of Management and Budget) while requiring agencies to send the President annual budget proposals. As Congress could not develop their own budget analyses, this change gave the President an upper hand in budget negotiations for the next half century.

Over time, Congress slowly reclaimed its constitutional power of the purse. This ongoing struggle came to a climax in the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon raised a serious constitutional question by refusing to spend funds already appropriated by Congress for various social programs. Nixon won this argument, and Congress responded by passing the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which gave Congress its own formal budget creating process.

After that point, Congress passed budgets for each fiscal year and the deficits began to skyrocket. Limitations were put in place, such as Gramm-Rudman in 1985 and 1987, along with further budget control acts. But regardless, government continued to grow each year at a steady pace.

However, no previous Congress could have prepared for what the Senate has done in recent years. Controlled by Democrats, it passed a budget in April 2009, and it wasn't until March 2013 that they passed another with only a one-vote margin. Tough political maneuvers started an ugly trend of budgeting on temporary timeframes, which always included eleventh-hour deals and crises.

This process is harmful to our republic, as it gives cover to big-spending politicians who know there is not enough time for their colleagues and the public to thoroughly vet proposed spending measures. These short-term CRs are passed with incredible speed, allowing Democrats and wayward Republicans to call conservatives “terrorists” and “arsonists” for daring to challenge the new status quo. And, as we saw during this latest budget negotiation process, big-spending politicians now get to use the leverage of things like federal parks and museums to get what they want.

This is unacceptable. Conservatives must demand Congress start passing budgets in regular order, and they can start by passing two appropriation bills each week.

This would allow Congress to make the necessary cuts we need to bring down the unsustainable $17 trillion national debt.

This process would allow Congress to properly debate the budgets for bloated federal agencies. And that would be the time to defund everything related to Health and Human Services’ and the IRS’ involvement in Obamacare.

This budget fight is not over. Instead, it has entered a new phase and conservatives need to adapt accordingly. By passing real budgets and winning elections, we can still stop Obamacare forever.


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