On July 14, Freedom Partners Senior Policy Advisor Andy Koenig issued an “interested parties” memo that was sent to members of Congress and other Washington influencers. The full text of the memo, which calls on Congress to end the cycle of budgeting by crisis and pass a two-year continuing resolution, appears below.
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Andy Koenig, Senior Policy Advisor
RE: Ending Crisis Budgeting: Stop, Cut & Fix
In the 1988 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan lamented that during the previous seven years, “of 91 appropriations bills scheduled to arrive on my desk by a certain date, only 10 made it on time.”
Today, not much has changed. As Congress leaves Washington for a seven-week vacation, it is already clear that lawmakers will once again fail to pass the funding bills necessary to avoid a government shutdown after September 30. It has now been 20 years since Congress has fulfilled its basic constitutional responsibility.
Congress’ failure will set up another lose-lose scenario for taxpayers. Lawmakers are already planning their now-standard operating procedure of budget brinksmanship and passing a last-minute, short-term continuing resolution spending bill that punts the real discussions into a lame-duck session of Congress. They will then go behind closed doors to write a massive $1 trillion-plus omnibus spending bill – and then vote on it before anyone can read it.
It’s time for this charade to stop. The cycle of budgeting by crisis and covert negotiations wastes taxpayer money, undermines public trust, and results in higher spending and debt that pushes America that much closer to bankruptcy.
STOP, CUT & FIX
When Congress reconvenes in September, lawmakers should reject a short-term continuing resolution that empowers unaccountable politicians in a lame-duck session to craft a massive, waste-ridden omnibus spending bill.
Instead, they should pass a long-term, two-year continuing resolution that sets spending at levels already established under the bipartisan Budget Control Act.
We call this plan Stop, Cut & Fix. It would:
- End the cycle of budgeting by crisis that, over the last four years, has led to tens of billions of dollars in higher spending and created a series of crises that caused fiscal and economic uncertainty.
- Ensure $152.7 billion in discretionary spending cuts promised under the Budget Control Act over the next two years.
- Provide Congress breathing room to consider and enact much-needed budget reforms that will allow a return to regular order.
- Allow Congress to focus on the real driver of our national debt – mandatory spending that consumes 70 percent of our federal budget.
- Ensure that the next president – no matter who is in control – will not be able to significantly increase spending for their first two years in office.
Everyone agrees that Congress’ budgeting process is broken. Stop, Cut & Fix would be a much-needed step back toward fiscal normalcy. It would provide taxpayers with greater transparency and certainty, guarantee billions in bipartisan savings, and put an end to the annual budgeting-by-crisis ritual.
SPENDING TRILLIONS WITH NO TRANSPARENCY
Every time Congress follows this path, our elected officials prevent the American people from discovering what they’re up to.
For example, a 1,524-page, $1.012 trillion spending bill was made available to the public and Congress on January 13, 2014 and passed just two days later by the U.S. House of Representatives. Last year, a 2,009-page spending bill totaling $1.066 trillion was introduced on December 15 and passed on December 18.
Not only are these bills considered without adequate deliberation, they are also considered under closed rules, preventing any amendments to cut wasteful spending. This process goes against everything that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle claim to support when they talk about “regular order,” the orderly and deliberative legislative process outlined by congressional rules and procedures.
MASSIVE SPENDING INCREASES
Unsurprisingly, these last-minute spending deals are chock-full of wasteful spending and backroom deals. For instance, federal agencies often get huge boosts in spending they didn’t even request. Here are some of the big winners from last year’s omnibus spending bill:
- The scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs received $1.3 billion more in funding than it requested last year.
- The Department of Interior’s funding for water resources, which pays for local water projects across the country, saw a 39 percent increase to a total of $1.12 billion.
- The Appalachian Regional Commission – which has been accused of wasteful spending in the past – received $146 million, or 53 percent more than the $95 million it requested.
- Spending for federal prison system buildings and facilities saw a massive spending hike. The account received $530 million, or 277 percent more than the $140 million the Department of Justice said it needed for the program.
These expenditures may or may not have been justified. But the public has no way of knowing that since the bills were crafted in secret. With only hours to review these bills and examine the justification for these huge funding spikes, the public can only surmise that cronies and special interests secured handouts for themselves and their friends.
The American people deserve better. It’s time for a responsible appropriations plan that will cut spending, check the power of Washington, and provide economic certainty for years to come.
Learn more about Stop, Cut & Fix