Senate funding progress is not a permanent solution
In March, President Trump said he would never again sign another last-minute, massive spending bill. In May, a group of 16 Republican senators came together to say we were willing to work nights, weekends, and through the annual August recess to deliver results, specifically on confirmations and funding. This additional time created an opportunity for Congress to fully fund the government on time for the first time in 22 years.
Congress got close, but missed its chance.
Despite some progress, in typical Washington fashion, Congress has again found a way to fall short of fulfilling its constitutional responsibility. There is still time before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, but Congress has thrown in the towel. It has turned to another continuing resolution to keep the lights on until December. This is completely unacceptable.
Amazingly, some senators are patting themselves on the back for partially funding the federal government — but there is no reason to celebrate. In the real world, you are held accountable to complete the job. Working through August was never about spending more time in Washington. It was about confirming as many nominations as possible, due to Democratic obstruction, and funding the government. It’s that simple.
Since the Senate stayed in session this August, we successfully completed 90 percent of the funding bills for the first time in 22 years. This is a huge step forward, but we still didn’t get it all done. The Senate has completed and passed nine of the 12 appropriations bills in three tranches. Both chambers have been working diligently to sort out the differences in conference. The remaining funding is being held up due to controversy over border security.
Meanwhile, congressional leadership decided to roll the unfinished bills into a package tied to defense funding and call it a day until December. This is a total sleight of hand. It is caving to Senate Democrats who are doing everything they can to derail President Trump’s agenda, including funding for border security and the wall.
Another funding failure further exposes the underlying problems with the funding process used by Congress since 1974. It has only fully funded the government four times in the past 44 years. It has locked Washington in a cycle of continuing resolutions and last-minute spending deals. This week marked the 184th time Congress used a continuing resolution. Until politicians have the will to do something about this broken process, these funding lapses will continue.
There is a different way to deliver results. Over the last year, as a member of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, I have worked in a bipartisan, bicameral way with my colleagues to create a politically neutral platform that funds the government on time every year.
To be successful, this new funding process needs to include specific milestones for completing funding and appropriate consequences if Congress fails to meet those markers.
I came to the Senate to help tackle our national debt crisis. While the Senate has made significant progress on funding this year, permanent change will not happen unless we get serious. It will not happen if Congress refuses to hold itself accountable for failure. It will not happen if Congress continues to accept a broken funding process.
The Joint Select Committee is our last chance to fix this problem, but the window is closing. We have to hold ourselves accountable to the same standards of people in the real world and put a politically neutral platform in place that funds the government on time without the use of continuing resolutions or sweeping funding bills after the end of the fiscal year.
With the size of our national debt, we can no longer kick the can down the road, as Congress did again this year.