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


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