Congress needs to say ‘no’ to Obama’s lame duck spending bill

The American people have demanded action and accountability from Washington.

Yet Congress is preparing to negotiate a big, unaccountable spending package during President Barack Obama’s lame duck — while we ignore our $600 billion deficit.

Lame duck sessions historically pass some of the worst legislation. That’s why they’re called lame. Last year, the House produced what Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) called a “crap sandwich.” This year we look likely to approve extra helpings.

Do we want an outgoing and unaccountable lame-duck President Obama and retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) dictating terms for another gigantic omnibus bill? With the past as the best predictor of the future, we know any Federal spending bill will not include any conservative riders, but be loaded up with Christmas goodies for the Washington class. So, Merry Christmas!

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Win McNamee/Getty Images) 

In the past six years, and despite current Republican control of both houses, only one joint budget resolution has passed. Only one – in six years.

Only one out of 72 regular spending bills have passed since Republicans have had the majority in the House. In fact, it’s been over 20 years since Congress passed all regular annual appropriations bills on time. One has to conclude that this is the new normal, and that this routine is intentional.

Why? Because it allows D.C. cronies to get their spending goodies from the government while American taxpayers get the bill.

Last fall, the House Freedom Caucus fought hard for regular order. If regular order was followed, there would be no phony government shut-down crisis at years end. Instead, the orderly process of the House requires a floor vote on the budget resolution in the spring. After that, a series of debates over each appropriations (or spending) bill would take place.

Speaker Ryan vowed just last December that this year there would be a return to regular order in the appropriations process, and he said he had received support in this goal from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.. No, I’m not making that up. You can read their own words in news reports.

Yet, here we are, less than nine months later.

There was no floor vote on the budget resolution in the spring. Instead of following regular order and passing the budget and appropriations bills, leadership whiffed on the April 15 statutory deadline and failed to hold a vote on the budget – a violation of the Budget Act.

The rules and process are in place so that lawmakers can stand up and be accountable to the American people on the Federal government’s spending. Holding a vote enforces fiscal discipline and accountability, because it is possible for voters to look up their member’s record – and if they don’t like the result, they can change their congressman or woman.

On the other hand, the giant omnibus method of spending makes it impossible to hold lawmakers to account.

Passing the appropriations bills and the budget in regular order allows lawmakers to set priorities, put checks on executive overreach, and create line-item amounts for spending in law. In short, exactly what the American people sent us here to do.

Even though Republicans control both the House and the Senate, the federal budget deficit is set to go up to over $600 billion this year. If Congress continues on its current path of spending, the deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2024 and every year thereafter. Last year marked the highest level of federal government spending ever.

Total debt will surpass $20 trillion by the end of 2017. All revenue coming into the Federal government will be consumed by autopilot programs in 10 years — and not one penny will be left to pay for the military, police, education, or any other government function — unless we take on more debt. Passing debt of these proportions on to our children represents a moral failure.

Republicans say they hope for mini-bus appropriation bills but that is a certain path to failure, when Sens. Reid and Schumer and Senate Democrats, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have publicly vowed to block anything other than what amounts to an omnibus.

Therefore, the only conclusion that can be reached is that we will pass an enormous omnibus spending package that blows the budget caps by December 9 and passes this huge debt burden on to the next generation to pay.

As usual, this entire conversation has degenerated into last-minute horse trading over a bunch of hot-button issues like the Ex-Im Bank, Zika, Flint, Louisiana flooding, Puerto Rico Planned Parenthood, ICANN, and criminal justice reform. Issues that most Americans care about, like immigration enforcement, proper vetting for refugees, fiscal responsibility, repairing services for veterans, making benefits program sustainable, stopping illegal amnesty, budget process reforms, blocking EPA overreach on water issues, the Department of Labor’s job- and pay-killing overtime and franchise rules, Obamacare waivers, insurance company bailouts, holding the rogue Consumer Financial Protection Bureau accountable, aren’t even part of the conversation.

Not to mention that we won’t even know what’s in the final bill, until five people in a closed room decide and present it to the rest of Congress last minute without debate.

Good governing means refusing to hand our leverage over to outgoing President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Senate Democrats have blockaded consideration of spending measures through regular order year after year. They have banded together to veto the American people’s demands for fiscal discipline. We know what they will do – but the question is, how will we respond?

Good governing means passing the budget in the spring and spending bills as part of the normal appropriations process — rather than a last minute Christmas “surprise.” Good governing means keeping our promises to the American people.

Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) is a member of the Budget Committee and the House Freedom Caucus. Before serving in Congress, he worked for the World Bank assisting developing world economies and was an economics professor and chairman of the economics depar

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