I explain budgeting and appropriation, and suggest a new strategy.
The Federal budgeting and appropriation process, as defined by the The Congressional Budget Act of 1974, is a complicated process which takes up a lot of time and hard work in the House and Senate – ordinarily. Here’s a detailed and thorough explanation of it from Results.org description of Federal budgeting and appropriations. The Results.org people seek to influence a portion of it. An outline description of it is much easier to understand: Wikipedia description of budgeting and appropriations.
Briefly, the President and the Congress should work together. The President is required to submit a proposed budget to Congress between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February. In 2013, he was two months late with his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014, which began on October 1st of 2013. It infuriated both parties, because it contained a proposal to reduce Social Security payouts long term as well as a 600 billion dollar tax increase over 10 years. It was more or less dead on arrival. Congress, or at least, the Senate, did nothing until the weekend before October 1, when the federal government shut down because the Senate and House battled over Obamacare provisions added to a continuing resolution which would have funded the government for only 11 weeks.
The budget process is supposed to result in a series of 12 appropriations bills, (they can be combined into one omnibus bill) which funds 12 areas of government. They are (from Wikipedia):Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration Commerce, Justice, and Science Defense Energy and Water Development Financial Services and General Government (includes judicial branch, theExecutive Office of the President, and District of Columbia appropriations) Homeland Security Interior and Environment Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Legislative Branch Military Construction and Veterans Affairs State and Foreign Operations Transportation and Housing and Urban Development
Each appropriations bill contains a breakdown of appropriations for each activity within the agency.
Under Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, the budgeting process hasn’t resulted in appropriations bills since 2009. Instead, we’ve had continuing resolutions (CR’s), which continue the budget into the next fiscal year, but can allow raises. Federal spending has gone up sharply over those four years. Each CR has resulted in a battle between Democrats and Republicans. Those battles have contributed to the low level of respect the American public have for Congress and the President.
Apparently, the lack of budgeting by the Senate and outrageous budgets submitted by Obama is a deliberate strategy of the Democrats. If the Senate created annual budgets, the public would notice the increases from year to year, and Republicans would contest them.
I think the Republicans should have a strategy of their own. The House should create their own budget, or take up the President’s budget if he submits one, then work on it as they are supposed to, but ignore the Senate if they aren’t doing their mandated work. The House should then create the 12 appropriations bills, setting spending at the levels they want, and send them to the Senate one at a time. They should send the last of them weeks before October 1. If the Senate takes up the bills, and creates their own version, then the House should go into conference with them and try to reach agreement on differences. If the Senate ignores the bills, as is likely, the House should not do anything further. The House should under no circumstances load the bills with riders or give the Senate any excuse for rejecting them. Further, under no circumstances should the House create CR’s, but they should insist that the Senate must pass the appropriations bills or else negotiate with the House to change them, and the Senate must act in a timely manner.
The government by Continuing Resolution must stop. The Senate and the Democrats need to do their jobs.