Since the government shutdown, House and Senate Republicans have proposed restoring funding to specific agencies or government functions while the parties seek consensus on the larger issues. The House has proposed legislation to reopen the National Parks, the National Institutes for Health and the Veterans Administration, among others. Democrats have flatly refused, dismissing the GOP efforts as “piecemeal” approaches. The thing is, however, government is normally funded by such a “piecemeal” approach.
Before the Senate decided some five years ago that it would no longer take the trouble of passing a budget, the government was largely funded through the appropriations process. Around a dozen separate appropriations bills, each covering one or two federal agencies, made their way through Congress. Some passed through Congress easily. Others took much longer and witnessed more sustained and impassioned debate.
It was not uncommon for Congress to approach a fiscal year deadline with funding for a handful of agencies still in doubt. Congress’s regular order for funding the government, in other words, was a “piecemeal” approach.
Yet, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) now criticizes this approach. “They are focusing on trying to cherry-pick some of the few parts of the government that they like,” Reid said, deriding the plan as “just another wacky idea by the Tea Party-driven Republicans.”
What Reid now calls a “wacky idea” used to be called “regular order” in Congress. His criticism now of what used to be the normal manner of government budgeting exposes either his disingenuousness or his memory failure after neglecting to pass an actual budget for the past five years.
Thursday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked for unanimous consent to restore funding for the Veterans Administration. More than 90% of that agency is still open, but some administrative tasks are going unfulfilled. Reid, naturally, objected.
Reid wants to inflict maximum pain, rather than find a solution.