The number one responsibility of Congress is to pass a budget and adopt appropriation bills to run the government. Yet, this do-nothing Congress can’t even do that. The new fiscal year began October 1, but they have yet to pass a budget to keep the government running until the end of the fiscal year September 30, 2012.
If they don’t pass on by November 18, the government will shut down. This will be the 4th time since Republicans took over the House in January that the U.S. is flirting with a government shutdown. If we are lucky, Congress will go to an hour before the shut down and come up with another temporary budget leading up to another battle in a month or so.
So what are they doing this week? Surprise, the House is on vacation again, and the Senate goes on vacation next week. No sense of urgency. No sense of responsibility. What happened to their oath of office?
Budget process is broken
Rosalind S. Helderman wrote a column in the Washington Post on the issue. She reports that Congress is so broken two Senators, a Republican and a Democrat introduced a bill that would stipulate if Congress could not adopt an annual budget by April 15th each year, Congress would shut down. Presumably, they would cease being paid.
If that measure passed, there would be no bills considered, no abortion bills considered, no ear marks and bridges to no-where. Nothing, nada, zip. “It’d be a pretty good incentive to get things done,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD.), who is sponsoring the bill with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).
Too bad the bill will go no where. Too bad its deadline isn’t November 1 this year. The best thing for the country might be if this do-nothing Congress just went home and save taxpayers the money we waste on them and eliminate all the drama that makes us look like fools to the rest of the world.
“It’s a very serious problem. The world’s greatest democracy cannot produce a budget,” Lee Hamilton, who served 34 years in Congress and is director of the Center on Congress at Indian University, was quoted as saying in the Helderman piece. “When people say it’s dysfunctional, when they say it’s not working well, the budget process I think is Exhibit A in that charge.”
The American people are disgusted with partisan bickering in Congress. Never before, has Congress had a lower approval rating. That does not seem to bother the members of Congress. They seem to think they were elected just to get perks, free health care, and run for re-election. Oh, and defeat Obama. “Govern,” they say. “What’s governing?”
How it is supposed to work
In her piece, Rosalind Helderman spelled out how the process is supposed to work. It begins with the president submitting a recommended budget to Congress in February for the fiscal year that will begin the following Oct. 1.
By April 15, both chambers of Congress are supposed to adopt their own budget resolutions, which are to broadly outline how much the government will collect and spend for the year. Each chamber is supposed to pass its own versions of the 12 bills, then negotiate the differences between them and pass identical measures by the time the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. That way, federal agencies start the year knowing what to spend in the 12 months ahead.
That is how it is supposed to work. In this Congress, it doesn’t work at all. Three times since January, we have been on the brink of a government shut down. We also went to the brink of defaulting on our debts resulting in a downgrade of our credit rating. The fiscal ear began October 1, and no spending bills have been enacted by both Houses.
Furthermore, when we nearly defaulted on our debt, Congress enacted a law setting up a Super Committee charged with coming up with a plan to reduce the debt by $1.5 trillion by Thanksgiving. If it doesn’t, then the law mandates cuts to defense and entitlements.
Guess what? The Super Committee is deadlocked. Who saw that coming? If this were not so critical, it would be funny. Lives and our entire future are in the hands of this do-nothing, dysfunctional Congress.
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