Congress Scrambles to Finish Budget

Congress Scrambles to Finish Budget

On Friday, House Republicans introduced legislation to extend the government’s spending authority for three days beyond next week’s January 15th deadline. The extension would avoid a government shutdown and allow more time for negotiators to finalize an omnibus spending bill. The omnibus bill will specific exact spending for every government program and function. 

Breitbart News has regularly noted that the budget deal reached between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) at the end of last year didn’t, itself, avoid another government shutdown. The agreement set the overall levels of discretionary spending, but didn’t authorize that spending. Until agreement is reached on how specifically the funds should be spent, Congress will have to keep passing funding extensions to avoid a shutdown. 

Congress hasn’t passed a formal budget for more than 5 years. Instead, it has simply extended funding at existing levels of spending. As a result, it has avoided debates over the myriad policy choices that guide federal spending. Formal appropriations, like the omnibus spending bill under negotiation, detail specific funding for every line-item in the government’s budget. These decisions are subject to a lot of debate and horse-trading.

The omnibus spending bill will allocate just over $1 trillion in discretionary spending. Because it is considered a “must pass” piece of legislation, it could also be a vehicle for other legislative items that are stalled in Congress. It will be impossible for public to learn the specific provisions in the legislation before Congress acts on it. 

We will, yet again, have to wait until Congress passes the spending bill to find out what is in it.