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Lame duck spending bill is a Democrat-designed democracy detour

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If you failed to responsibly spend your employer’s money, what would happen to you? If you’re a member of Congress, probably not much. When it comes to its most fundamental duty of budgeting and funding the federal government, Congress consistently earns an “F” without consequence. Instead, taxpayers — lawmakers’ bosses — have borne the brunt of Congress’s fiscal irresponsibility.

Though Congress has successfully found clever workarounds, measures do exist to promote responsible spending. There’s an important reason the president can request a budget but only Congress is empowered by the Constitution to control the purse strings. Our Founders wanted to afford taxpayers maximum oversight over how their money is spent, so they assigned the power of the purse to the branch they considered closest to the people.

There’s a long-established process for exercising that spending power. Historically, Congress passes 12 appropriations bills each fiscal year allocating taxpayer funds across our federal government. That way, Congress can make annual adjustments based on the country’s evolving needs. But with increasing frequency, Congress is so mismanaged that it runs out of time before the next fiscal year arrives each Oct. 1 to address individual appropriations bills with the scrutiny they deserve. When that happens, Congress often considers omnibus legislation, the combination of several — or even all — of that year’s 12 appropriations bills. These omnibus bills are rarely subject to amendments or meaningful debate on the House or Senate floor. Anyone daring to scrutinize or vote against the last-minute package is tarred with the “pro-government shutdown” brush. And with bills so large (the FY2022 omnibus bill included $1.5 trillion in spending), lawmakers inevitably are passed a slice of pork for their districts to justify an “aye” vote back home. So much for accountability.

But it can get worse. When Congress fails to pass an omnibus, its next option is a continuing resolution — a “CR” in Inside the Beltway language — that extends current funding levels into the next fiscal year for a set period. Sometimes Congress must pass two or three consecutive CRs, kicking the can far down the road into the new fiscal year before agreeing on updated spending levels. Allowing its appropriations work to bleed past one fiscal year into another sets Congress behind crafting the next fiscal year’s appropriations bills, creating a vicious cycle representative of the haplessness of our modern legislative branch.

Without question, a CR is an incredibly wasteful and inefficient failure to adapt our spending to the nation and the American people’s changing needs and problems. If you’re a government agency or contractor, it’s difficult to make necessary long-term plans based on presumed spending changes only to have the rug pulled out from under you at the end of each fiscal year. Hiring and training employees, purchasing needed materials, equipment, and property, and implementing new programs require extensive planning to be efficient and cost-effective, whether installing new screening technology at a border checkpoint or constructing a battleship.

This year, the Democrats running Congress are taking an even more cynical approach to fund (or failing to fund) the government. Instead of finishing 12 appropriations bills on time before FY2023 arrives, Democrats threw in the towel early and are trying to pass a CR to fund our government until the middle of the lame duck session in mid-December — after the November elections but before a new Congress arrives.

Their political calculus is not difficult to decipher. Democrats want to pack unpopular left-wing, big-government policies into a giant omnibus spending bill that receives a vote once their vulnerable members are safely no longer accountable to voters but before Republicans take over in January. One vote, a press release leading with “while this was a difficult decision,” then its home for the holidays, with American taxpayers getting a lump of coal in their stocking in the form of job-killing Green New Deal regulations, funding for tens of thousands of new IRS bureaucrats, and unchecked expansion of government spending worsening historic inflation.

Democrats (and the big-spending Republicans acquiescing to their scheme) are cheating the system, intentionally failing to spend your money responsibly so they can continue to rule over you after a widely predicted GOP takeover, putting their own political power over the people. With Democrats, CR doesn’t stand for “continuing resolution” but “continued rule.”

American taxpayers understandably want their government to spend responsibly. Yet while Democrats are too eager to drive the fiscal car off the cliff, some Republicans are often content to ride shotgun. By refusing to allow a lame-duck CR and insisting Democrats fund the government until early in the next Congress, Republicans can place a roadblock on Democrats’ democracy detour and demonstrate our eagerness to accept the responsibility of allocating limited taxpayer dollars. My colleagues Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) have led letters in their respective chambers pledging to oppose any continuing resolution expiring before the first day of the 118th Congress or any lame duck appropriations package, an effort I support. No one should desire a CR, but some CRs are better than others.

For too long, Congress has escaped accountability for its fiscal failures while bleeding taxpayers dry of their resources and liberties. Republicans have a rare opportunity to both deny the Democrats’ scheme to bypass accountability and restore some fiscal sanity. That’s a Christmas present the voters who employ us would be happy to unwrap.

Rep. Barry Moore is a small businessman and former National Guardsman currently representing Alabama’s 2nd District.

Tags appropriations process continuing resolution lame duck session omnibus

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