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Sense of Urgency Grows as Deadline for New Spending Bill Approaches

January 13, 2022 by Dan McCue
Sense of Urgency Grows as Deadline for New  Spending Bill Approaches
U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — With most eyes on Capitol Hill glued to the drama transpring in the Senate this week over the fate of the filibuster and a pair of sweeping election reform bills, a small group of lawmakers is quietly working to come to an agreement that would fund the government through the end of the year. 

“Failure to pass an omnibus appropriations bill deeply damages not only the Defense Department, but every other federal agency because without one, they simply don’t know whether they have the funding necessary to do the work they have to do in 2022,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer during a pen and pad session with reporters this week.

“If we simply do a continuing resolution, we’ll be making funding decisions based upon last year’s reality, not this year’s reality … so the omnibus bill is a very, very important piece of legislation for us to get done.”

In Early December, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced a short-term continuing resolution funding the government through Feb. 18.

At the time, she said, her hand was forced by congressional Republicans who “refused to negotiate on government funding” and failed to present a counter-offer to her proposals.

And as Hoyer said, DeLauro’s resolution only extended already-existing funding levels “creating incentives for both sides to negotiate,” she said.

At the time, DeLauro said she thought the Feb. 18 end date was too generous, but conceded it would “allow the appropriations process to move forward” and for the crafting of a final funding agreement “which addresses the needs of the American people.”

“Instead of short-term funding patches like this, working families, small businesses, veterans, and our military need the certainty that comes with passing an omnibus,” she said.

Since December, Hoyer said, DeLauro, Rep. Kay Granger, ranking member of the House appropriations Committee, Rep. Barabra Lee, who represents the  Appropriations Committee on the House Budget Committee, and Sen. Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, “have been working very, very hard” to achieve a budget agreement.

But on Wednesday, Delauro painted a worrisome picture of the progress during an appearance before the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

“It’s not a question of pointing fingers, but the Democratic proposals are out there,” Delauro said. “To date, there has not been one single document that outlines where our Republican colleagues want to go.” 

“President Kennedy once said, ‘There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.’ We need action on full year spending bills now,” she said. “The longer our colleagues get comfortable in their inaction, the greater the long-range risks will be for our nation.”

DeLauro said she is particularly alarmed by suggestions that some would prefer to fund the government under a full-year continuing resolution.

“This would harm our military: stalling modernization efforts, readiness, capacity, recruitment, operations and maintenance, impacting pay for our troops, and wasting billions in taxpayer dollars on capabilities we no longer need,” she said.

“A full-year Continuing Resolution would keep platforms and systems that are no longer necessary in service, while blocking the start of new projects,” she continued. “It would reduce the buying power of the Defense Department and lock the Pentagon into last year’s spending, such as for a war in Afghanistan we are no longer fighting. There are few more egregious ways to waste the American people’s hard-earned tax dollars.

“Finally, I am deeply concerned about the impact of a full-year CR on the millions of jobs the Defense industry sustains across the United States,” she said, adding, “The consequences of a full-year CR are simply unthinkable. 

“To protect our national security, sustain American strength vis-à-vis China and Russia, and further American leadership around the world, we need a government funding agreement, we need it now,”DeLauro said.

On Thursday, the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally-responsible and national security-minded Democrats also urged Congress to pass an omnibus appropriation bill, raising a specter that’s been little discussed of late – the prospect of a looming government shutdown.

“All government shutdowns — regardless how short — negatively affect our economy, our ability to properly plan our national defense operations, and our hardworking servicemembers and federal employees,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., the Blue Dog’s co-chair for Administration. 

“No government shutdown is justified. However, funding our government in the paltry spans of months — or even weeks — is a ridiculous process that has become far too commonplace,” he said. “Our military and critical, federally-funded programs and initiatives need time to plan and budget, and our economy need not suffer from such constant turbulence. Lawmakers are here in Washington to get the government funded on time each year and ensure that that funding reflects the needs of our constituents. It is ridiculous when we can’t get this done.”

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., the Blue Dog’s co-chair for communications called the “constant” use of continuing resolutions “a shameful abdication of Congress’s fundamental responsibility to properly fund the government.” 

“It threatens both our national security and the fiscal stability of this nation. While I do not think we should shut down the government, Republicans must come to the table to work with Democrats so we can pass a full funding bill and stop kicking the can down the road,” she said.

“I don’t want to do another continuing resolution,” Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday. “To do so would simply be a recognition of our failure, in my opinion, to get our job done in a timely fashion.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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