Alinea

By Anne Armstrong

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Congress once again not doing its most important job

For many people, this is a favorite time of year in Washington.  The weather is beautiful. Kids are back in school. It’s the beginning of many new projects. Holidays are around the corner.

It is one of my least favorite because we are once again in Continuing Resolution hell.

In all but three of the last 30 years, Congress has failed to pass a budget to fund the federal government by the beginning of its new fiscal year, which we all know starts Oct. 1. Some years, it is politically correct to fund DOD or Homeland Security, and they are the exceptions that are funded. But, no surprise, Congress never fails to fund itself. This year, the legislative branch bill was the only appropriations bill passed.

I just cannot understand why no one is upset. Why do the American people put up with a group of people that cannot perform its most basic function?

If one’s job is to sweep the sidewalk, it is not appropriate to skip that and say that the trees need pruning. But that’s what Congress appears to do year after year.

As you can tell, I foam at the mouth over this repeated failure to perform.

Actions have consequences. Continuing resolutions have negative effects on the agencies that have to live with them. Don’t take my word for it. GAO just published a report detailing the many effects living under a continuing resolution has for the agencies. For the full report, see Continuing Resolutions: Uncertainty Limited Management Options and Increased Workload in Selected Agencies  (Government Accountability Office, 9/24/2009).

So according to the GAO, most agencies operate under a CR for part of the year. Startling is the fact that most agencies spend between 60 and 90 days under the CR. One third of the fiscal year, they are limited in how they spend funds, whether they can start new projects and how they can fund grants.

Then starting in the spring, Congress hauls all the execs up to Capitol Hill to explain why there are delays in projects.

If this were a movie, I would shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not to take it anymore.”

The scarier part is, the public doesn’t seem to care. We are fighting about public options in health care, but not whether the Congress is performing its most basic function.

Where is the appropriations tea party?

What about the notion that you only get August off if the appropriations bills are passed?

Posted by Anne Armstrong on Oct 06, 2009 at 12:10 PM


Reader comments

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 Trail Boss

In point of fact, in 1977 Congress changed the fiscal year end date from June 30th to September 30th, so they would have more time to vote on the next year's budget. That year, we had FY7T, which was exactly 1/4th of your appropriation during FY77.

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 Bill G.

Anne this is the first time I have posted comments.Having served as a public servent for over thirty years in contracting programs and now in the privated sector I continue to to be amassed on how "we the people" have become numb over the lack of performance by "our" elected officials year-in-year-out. While there are many discussions about insourcing vs outsourcing this is one matter that is solely in the hands of congress and the president. I can tell you for sure that if I don't have my budget ready for my scheduled November Board Meeting it would be my last meeting with the Board. The Public needs to take a queue from your article. It will take a very strong Tea or Coffee Party to make a much needed "CHANGE." Keep the topic in front of us with your 1105 out reach. Do a running daily counter on how many days late and how much the delays are adding to our building national debt. Something like the display in Times Square.

Wed, Oct 7, 2009

Never understood why agency core functions-not those set up due to earmarks or special interest programs etc. cannot be approved on a 3 to 5 year basis. That way we would not have the gamesmanship that Congress plays each year. Congress thinks they are saving the constituent/taxpayer money but most likely it is really costing more money as agencies have to develop scenarios for operating under CR's and then operating under full funding or something in between. Perhaps the real reason is that so many members of Congress have short attention spans and bounce from what they perceive is one hot button issue to another.

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 Somewhere in Washington, DC

I have to say that I agree completely with Ms. Armstrong. As a long-time Federal employee, I am required to do the job I was hired for and do it well or I can expect to live with appropriate consequences. I LOVE the 'No August Off' idea. I also think that ensuring Legislative Branch funding CAN NOT happen without the completion of other funding initiatives... You know, the "pay for performance idea plan." Sort of like saying, "If you don't get the other areas of Government funded by the beginning of the NEW fiscal year, YOU won't be paid!" I think it's ironic that elected officials give lip service to their constituency but not timely funding so that they can be adequately served..

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 Vienna, VA

I think we need term limits for Congressional members. They have a life and schedule of their own; it has nothing to do with the Constitution or why they were hired.Perhaps if they didn't become ensconsed in Congress for 'Life' they would be more aware of what their job was.

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