Exclusive–Rep. Dave Brat: Federal Budget Process Broken

Dave Brat Close AP

The economist and college professor who defeated the House Majority Leader in the 2014 GOP primary told Breitbart News the Republican leadership needs to partner with House conservatives and reject the short-term budget fix that extends government funding until Dec. 9.

House conservatives are looking to be part of the solution, said Rep. David Brat (R.-Va.), a member of the House Budget Committee.

Capitol Hill conservatives are pressing for a “long CR” that would fund the federal government until March, taking it out of presidential election politics and most importantly taking it out of lame duck session, when Congress meets before the new members of the House and Senate are sworn in come January.

Lame duck sessions present a difficult challenge for conservatives because of the additional leverage on members eager to return home for the Christmas and New Years holidays, which pressures them to go vote and go home, rather than holding out for something better.

Brat said the real solution is the restoration of Regular Order.

Under the Regular Order, which Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R.-Wis.) promised to enforce, the federal budget bill, which passed the House Budget Committee in March, would have received a rule governing floor debate, so it could be brought to the floor for a vote.

Now, six months after it passed the House Budget Committee, the Rules Committee never approved a rule.

A Capitol Hill staffer with an understanding of the process told Brietbart News word was passed to the Rules Committee to bottle up the budget because House GOP leadership did not have the votes to pass it.

The failure of the 247-strong House Republicans to pass their own budget on the floor is especially galling because the party has its largest membership since the 1929-1931 session.

Brat said the failure to pass the budget and move through Regular Order is not actually by design, because the ensuing budget crisis concentrates the power of factions associated with legacy spending programs to negotiate for their priorities and boxes out regular members, who either passed amendments through the Budget Committee or would have had the chance to propose amendment during the floor debate.

Throughout the House budget process, the bill stays inside the Budget Committee, so that when the budget comes to the House floor, the chamber becomes the Committee of the Whole House, with the chairman and the ranking minority committee member acting as floor managers and all congressmen becoming, for the purposes of the debate and vote, members of the committee.

At the deadline, the Congress has not passed a fiscal year 2017 budget for President Barack Obama‘s desk. Fiscal year 2016 ends at midnight Sept. 30.

A failure to pass new spending by Oct. 1 leads to what is described as a “government shutdown.”

Brat, who was the chairman of the economic department at Randolph-Macon College, said he does not know a single House conservative planning for or calling for a government shutdown–although the House conservatives are often blamed.

The congressman said in the six years that the Republicans have controlled the House, every September has been taken over by federal government budget dramas.

“The real problem is the lack of regular order, which is one of the key concessions we got from Speaker Ryan,” he said.

“If there is Regular Order, there is no shutdown and we are the ones demanding Regular Order,” he said.

Then, there is the issue with the upper chamber, he said, where Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) has promised to gum up the works, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) is looking to get out of town so the GOP can campaign to defend 24 of their 54 seats up this year.

“The Senate is the real source of the problem,” he said. “They hinted that they want a short CR and then take off in a week.”

Brat said House leaders have no plan to combat Reid and the Senate Democrats, who said six months ago they were going to block any budget that does not give them what they want. Although, the Democrats are in the minority, Senate rules offer many tools for a motivated minority to block and delay the majority’s will.

“The question is: Who’s in charge, right? And why aren’t we standing up to them?–and then: Why are the two leaders telling us something different? The messages don’t blend. McConnell is saying we’re going to do a short-term CR and we’re leaving, and Paul Ryan is saying we’re going to do a bunch of mini-buses and then do a CR on the rest of it,” he said.

“Mini-buses” supported by Ryan would be a riff on the “omnibus” spending bills that combine unrelated items from across the federal government into one catch-all bill. The difference between an omnibus bill and a CR, or continuing resolution, is that the CR is an agreement to carry forward the previous approved budget through to an expiration date, and the omnibus has new budget numbers and line items for the whole fiscal year.

In December 2014, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill cobbled together a “CRomnibus” bill with Democrats that covered the rest of fiscal year 2015–before the Republicans took over the Senate in January 2015. The CRomnibus passed the House 219-206, with a combination of Democrats and GOP leaders and their loyalists voting for it and 67 conservative Republicans voting against it.

Brat said the House GOP leadership needs to reach out to House conservatives and partner with them as natural allies as the budget deadline gets closer and with two of the major players, Obama and Reid, looking for a few more victories before they both return to private life.


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