After two years of budget blowouts, the Democrat-led 117th Congress is trying one last time for another money geyser before Republicans take control of the House of Representatives. Despite pushing through more than $5 trillion in giveaways to Democrats’ favorite special interests, they want to run up the tab even more in a no-lefty-lobbyist-left-behind omnibus appropriations act.
Republicans should reject an omnibus spending package under these circumstances and insist on a short-term “Continuing Resolution” (CR). A CR is a stopgap measure used to extend federal funding when Congress fails to enact appropriations bills on time and pushes existing funding levels to an unspecified date that could be anywhere from a single day to several months in the future.
Congress had its chance to fund the government responsibly, and it failed. Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress were too busy chasing government-knows-best visions to do their most basic job: budgeting.
The omnibus could tempt members who focus on national security issues. I get it. National security is the federal government’s most important job. But CRs are mostly bad for the Department of Defense because of three provisions in each Defense Appropriations Act: detailed tables in the report being treated as law, a prohibition on buying new systems, and limits on moving money around. Congress could fix them easily by implementing a CR.
Another issue is overall defense funding. Granted, an omnibus would spend more than a CR. But the U.S. has nearly 230,000 American forces permanently stationed in other countries. Maybe making other prosperous countries do more for their own defense would let us adjust our forces abroad while protecting important next-generation weapons systems.
Without restoring the Defense Department’s management flexibility or revisiting overseas deployments, pressure for another bad budget deal could build. That’s what undermined the Budget Control Act; we shouldn’t repeat that mistake.
Congress needs to fix the way it budgets, and a CR could give them the breathing room to accomplish this. Surely a body full of former state and local government officials, businesspeople, and managers of other organizations can figure out how to get Congress to function again.
Congress only considers approximately a third of all federal spending in 12 appropriations bills each year, known as “discretionary” spending, and these days they are often rolled into a massive waste-packed omnibus that no one has a chance to read. The remaining two-thirds of spending is “mandatory” and funds entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, as well the interest on the federal debt. Federal appropriations include plenty of nonsense, but unchecked spending on entitlement programs is driving us off the cliff.
After decades of applying one patch after another to the budget, the simplest solution is probably the right one: Put everything into a real, unified budget that includes both discretionary and mandatory spending. That’s how we can protect our most important priorities while cutting waste and growing the economy.
But first, we need Judas Republicans to stop negotiating with Democrats on another bad omnibus spending bill and adding to the damage. We can’t afford to continue the spending blowout and the special interest giveaways with yet another closed-door omnibus package. Democrats desperately want one last opportunity to pass their radical, toxic agenda — but they need 10 Republicans to agree. That must not be allowed to happen.
A CR would hold the line on spending and avoid digging the hole deeper. It would also give us the time to figure out exactly what’s broken and how to fix it.