08.11.2014 1

Harry Reid’s lame duck strategy on the budget

lame_duckBy Robert Romano

With summer recess in full gear, it’s probably a safe bet your kids got more done at the water park than the U.S. Senate did all year.

While the House has been busy passing appropriations bills all year long — 7 in all, including 215 spending amendments — the Senate has not brought a single one off the floor. Not one.

This, after the much-ballyhooed Ryan-Murray budget deal was supposed to usher in a new era of appropriations. No more continuing resolutions, the American people were told.

While pushing for Senate passage last December Senator Patty Murray warned that “If we didn’t get a deal, we would have faced another continuing resolution that would have locked in… a potential government shutdown in just a few short weeks.”

In April, she swore the deal had “restored some much-needed certainty to the budget process.”

Yet, with the September rush ready to kick into high gear, all anyone is talking about is passing yet another continuing resolution, and then one that would only remain in effect until sometime in December. This would allow a lame duck Congress to write the budget after the November midterms without any electoral consequences.

But if anyone was honest about the situation, they might conclude Senate Democrats through their own inaction have lost the moral right to have any say in the matter. Harry Reid has been asleep at the wheel on appropriations since 2010.

For five years, the government has been running on continuing resolutions — because that’s the way Reid prefers it.

His rationale is simple. Floor votes on appropriations mean amendments and riders that turn into tough and potentially, politically embarrassing votes for his conference. Therefore, rather than govern, Reid refuses to bring any spending bills to the floor under normal order.

In the meantime, the House has had open rules on appropriations bills, with no-name House Democrats having a more of a say in the budget process under Republican House Speaker John Boehner than Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who hasn’t had a single amendment or piece legislation pass in his entire five-and-a-half years in office under Reid.

Simply put, if Senate Democrats do not wish to govern for the remainder of 2014, then so be it. When the next continuing resolution comes up, it should fund the government past January, disqualifying any opportunity for Reid to write a budget at the last minute.

By not allowing a lame duck to do the budget, next year Republicans can breathe life back into the Congressional power of the purse should they reclaim control of the Senate.

This year, Republicans have fought for defunds on the Internet giveaway, to prevent the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from forcing municipalities to build low-income housing smack in the middle of suburban neighborhoods, and to stop implementation of economically detrimental Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on coal plants.

These happen to be time-sensitive. The HUD regulation actually goes into effect this October. Transferring control over the Internet’s domain name system and assigned numbers functions by the Commerce Department could be done as soon as September 30, 2015 when the current contract expires. The EPA coal regs will be in effect by June 2015.

There are many more rules taking effect just as heinous and destructive to the American people.

And should funding be put into place for these departments and agencies for the full fiscal year, or if Congress is allowed to work out the budget after the elections, they may be impossible to stop from taking effect. To heck with that.

If Harry Reid wants to punt on the budget until after the elections, then House Republicans should force him to kick it all the way into January or so. No more lame duck budgets.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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