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A New Year's Resolution

December 13, 2016
Weekly Columns
In Article I, section 7, clause 1 of the United States Constitution, our Founding Fathers laid out the framework for the Congressional “Power of the Purse.” Congress has the fundamental responsibility for raising revenue and appropriating spending. It has done so for more than two centuries, but the job has become more complicated than need be in recent decades. Over the past several years, passing a budget and funding the government has grown more difficult, and has even resulted in government shutdowns. Just last week, Congress passed a continuing resolution at the 11th hour, just narrowly avoiding yet another government shutdown. Failure to pass appropriations bills and reliance upon continuing resolutions is an irresponsible way to govern and a dereliction of duty on the part of our elected officials.
We are fortunate that we did not witness another government shutdown last week, but the struggle to appropriate funds for our government programs is still real. You see, we must, and should, pass new appropriations bills each year to reflect the changing circumstances in our government programs and agencies. The needs and priorities of our government agencies are constantly changing and the annual appropriations process is the only responsible way to address these changes.
Along with appropriations legislation, we have authorization bills, which authorize the funding for government programs and agencies. For example, we just recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the next Fiscal Year 2017. It is one of the most critical, comprehensive bills that Congress considers every year, and it is must-pass legislation. That was one huge step forward.
However, all too often the one step forward is followed by two steps back. This year, in the House, we were successful in passing all twelve appropriations bills that fund the broad spectrum of our government out of the Appropriations Committee. But this is simply not enough. We need to get back into the regular order of things, and take all twelve of these bills to the House Floor, each year. When we fail to do that, we end up back to a continuing resolution, like the one passed last Friday.
Continuing resolutions cause a great deal of inconvenience to our federal agencies, our military and ultimately, to the American taxpayer. Although a shutdown is costlier, a continuing resolution simply puts the federal government on auto-pilot and ignores the changing circumstances and priorities of the nation.
It is disappointing that Congress once again failed to do the job and had to settle for yet another continuing resolution. We should not wait until April 28 – the expiration date of the current continuing resolution. Congress needs to finish the job of funding the government for Fiscal Year 2017 immediately. No more kicking the can down the road – let this serve as our New Year's resolution, and get the job done.