The Republican Study Committee's Bold Budget Proposal

Last week, something significant happened in the conservative movement that got few headlines, but could make headway.  The Republican Study Committee (RSC) came out with a conservative, elegant, and practical way to get Washington, D.C., out of its budget quagmire.  Their Responsible Spending and Accountability Act of 2015 (RSAA) isn’t legislation for the purpose of messaging and posturing. It is instead a document that can position Congress to make real conservative reforms.  Of course the media and the left largely ignored it.  They are threatened by disruptive, conservative ideas that will resonate with voters.

The appropriations process in Congress is used by the House and the Senate to determine the levels at which federal departments and agencies are funded.  The funding choices Congress makes reflect their political priorities.  Appropriations bills aren’t just about dollars and cents.  They also serve as statements from Congress about where we are going as a nation.  With all of this at stake, passing appropriations bills is a difficult and time-consuming process.

As it should be.

Committing taxpayer dollars to specific goals shouldn’t be rushed.  But the bills must be completed by September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.  When they aren’t, Congress passes a continuing resolution, telling the Treasury to keep funding the government even though the spending bills Congress must pass are past due.  That keeps reforms from happening.

Continuing resolutions often beget the ominously named omnibus, which is a giant bill which contains all or most government spending.  Predictably, this legislative leviathan is poorly vetted, rushed through the House and the Senate, contains all sorts of goodies for special interests, and fails to reflect conservative priorities.

Clearly, the appropriations process is broken.  The reasons for this dysfunction are many:  tough spending decisions are punted to the next fiscal year, other legislative priorities are advanced at the expense of appropriations bills, and the federal government is in perilous fiscal health.  Over the last several months, two obstacles have completely stalled the appropriations work of Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has refused to permit any appropriations bill to come to the floor of the Senate for a vote.  He is committed to busting the responsible caps on spending previously agreed to by Congress and President Obama.  He would rather put the United States deeper into debt to spend money we don’t have, instead of legislating responsibly.

In the House, Republican leadership derailed the appropriations process despite controlling that chamber.  After passing six spending bills, the House took up the Interior spending bill.  That bill was taken off the floor schedule after controversy about the Confederate flag in July. The appropriations process in the House has been stuck ever since.