[UPDATE]: Since the writing of this article, Senate approved the spending bill before midnight deadline, averting government shutdown. The headline has been changed to reflect that.
Back in September President Obama signed a last minute continuing resolution to keep the government funded through December 9th, which was passed through the Senate in a 72-26 vote in favor. Congress failed to pass the 12 agency appropriation bills to fund the Government for Fiscal Year 2017, with just 5 bills passing the house and only 3 passing the Senate. A continuing resolution continues the pre-existing appropriations at the same levels as the previous fiscal year, sometimes with minor changes.
Fast-forward to today and Congress is yet again about to pass a continuing resolution for a temporary spending bill that that will keep the government open and funded through April 28, 2017. A few of the highlights for changes to the CR are as follows:
– Boosts defense spending by $8 billion which includes: $773 million more for designing the Ohio Replacement Program ballistic missile submarines. Authorized AH–64E Apache and UH–60M Black Hawk helicopters multiyear procurement’s to avoid delays. Funds for the Air Force KC–46A tanker, helping the Pentagon avoid contract penalties and $650 million more for the European Reassurance Initiative.
– Funds to provide temporary healthcare to retired miners and their families. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is pushing to pass the Miners Protection Act so healthcare benefits for the miners aren’t just temporary. This could potentially be of conflict when the vote goes to the Senate.
– $4.1 billion in disaster relief assistance for states effected by hurricanes and flooding.
– $170 million for drinking water problems-mainly related to Flint Michigan and their water crisis.
– Most importantly, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for defense secretary, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, needs Congress to waive the seven year ban so he can take the cabinet role. General Mattis retired as a general in 2013, short of the 7 years that is required to take a position at the Pentagon. The spending bill includes a provision that would allow Congress to quickly approve a waiver for General Mattis.
Not all members of Congress, including Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), are okay with the use of continuing resolutions to continually fund the government. Sen. Lankford (R-OK) in an interview with C-SPAN said he will be voting against the CR once it hits the senate. About the CR, Sen. Lankford (R-OK) commented, “A continuing resolution is nothing different than taking last year’s appropriations bills, just changing the date on it and moving it over to this year, so it doesn’t address the areas of overspending, it doesn’t surgically go in and be able to change things like an appropriations bill does. An appropriations bill goes line by line, agency by agency, and allocates funding and says you have to stop funding here and increase funding here.”
Sen. Lankford (R-OK), in my opinion, is right about continuing resolutions. They are simply a short-term fix that has allowed President Obama to pass his huge omnibus bills to continue with the ways of wasteful government spending. No one has the time to read a bill over 1000 pages long to make an informed decision on whether the spending bill should pass. Although Paul Ryan and the Republicans hold the Senate, they have done nothing to stop the rampant spending of the Obama Administration. The CR provides zero transparency and creates massive instability when trying to budget for projects and allocate funds to agencies. The Senate Appropriations Committee had completed all 12 appropriation bills for FY2017, but Democrats, led by Harry Reid (we can all be thankful he’ll be retiring!) filibustered on the Senate floor. Though most of the 12 bills received bipartisan support, they all didn’t pass leading to the need for a continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown.
Now that the Republicans hold the White House, Senate, and House, they should be able to put a budget in plan that will reduce the current $19.5 trillion debt of our nation as well as the $441 billion deficit. Article 1 Section 9 of the Constitution states “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.” Congress holds the power of the purse, and they need to make sure they hold the President accountable.