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Continuing Resolutions
Continue Inefficient Government

April 24, 2017

Last year Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to avoid shutting the government down and to avoid dealing with a funding measure in the midst of a Presidential election.  Congress returns to work today and has only 4 days before government funding runs out.  It’s seems to be a recurring theme: Congress fails to plan ahead, ducks its Constitutional responsibilities, and then passes a CR in order to keep the government’s doors open. 

Under its Constitutional mandate, Congress is supposed to pass twelve appropriation bills each session.  Ideally each measure is the result of the Appropriations Committees looking at agency programs and ensuring these programs and projects have been previously authorized by Congress.  For example, if the House Appropriations committee was going to fund the export control functions of the U.S. Department of Commerce; it would first look to see if the Foreign Affairs Committee has gotten Congressional approval for the program and the extent of that approval (i.e., how much funding was authorized).  Then the Appropriations Committee would decide how much of that authorized amount it will actually fund.
 
Of course, all this assumes Congress has enacted a budget; which establishes overall spending goals, decisions, and priorities. For instance how much of the government’s spending should go toward revitalizing our military, how much for domestic spending, and so forth.  Without having such a budget or planning document the whole process grinds to a screeching halt. 

So instead of doing its job correctly; Congress passes Continuing Resolutions which say, in essence, “Whatever we did last year, let’s just do that again!”  Not only is this an extremely inefficient way of governing it makes it very difficult for government agencies to make long term commitments.  For example, NASA is engaged in the exploration of space, part of which is the manned space flight center, headquartered here in Houston.  How can NASA plan and let contracts in an efficient way if it only knows what its funding is for short periods of time?  The answer is it can’t!

This week we expect Congress will pass another CR and keep the government open through the end of the fiscal year (September 30th).  However, if this spending measure includes policy riders for building a border wall or defunding Planned Parenthood the Democrats in the Senate are likely to filibuster the measure and force a government shutdown.  It appears at this point that neither side wants to shutdown the government, but given the recent “discussions” over the repealing and replacing of Obamacare, who knows whether the CR will include continued funding for the Affordable Care Act and at what levels?

In our view this inefficient process of funding the government through Continuing Resolutions and the apparent inability of Congress to plan ahead and get its job done on time needs to stop.  Leaders in the private sector understand how important budgeting and planning is to the survival and overall health of their businesses. This is a lesson Congress also needs to learn.   

Bill, Mark, and John


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