Putting the continuing resolution into perspective

Published 7:00 am Thursday, October 8, 2015

On the last day of the fiscal year, Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 11. Such a measure is designed to serve as a temporary funding extension, giving lawmakers more time to enact a long-term spending plan.
Protecting National Security
Passage of a continuing resolution came with the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good included the prevention of a government shutdown, which would have hurt American workers, cost the government billions of dollars, and posed a serious threat to national security. In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that a shutdown could severely impact our cyber defenses.
He said, “What better time for a cyber-attack by an adversary when much of our expertise might be furloughed?” In 2013, furloughs affected about 70 percent of the civilian workers in the intelligence community.
Another positive aspect of the continuing resolution is that it adheres to the strict spending caps that were put in place by this year’s budget resolution. These caps are essential to fixing Washington’s spending problem and paving the way for long-term reform.
The continuing resolution also ensures that fundamental pro-life provisions like the Hyde Amendment are still in effect. The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, has been attached to appropriations bills for nearly four decades.
Democrats Reverse Support
One bad aspect of the continuing resolution is that Senate Democrats have kept Congress from doing one of its primary jobs, which is to produce 12 appropriations bills each year. The House of Representatives has passed all of its appropriations bills, and the Senate has done the same in committee, under the leadership of Sen. Thad Cochran, who chairs the Appropriations Committee.
This is the first time in six years for every Senate appropriations bill to clear the committee process.
And yet, Democratic leadership has repeatedly kept these bills from getting the required 60 votes to come to the floor for consideration by the full body. For example, even though the defense appropriations bill passed in committee by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 27-3, Democratic members reversed their support and blocked it from coming to the floor with a vote of 50-45.
Their opposition is part of an effort to shield themselves from tough votes to limit the use of funds by agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and Internal Revenue Service. The individual appropriations bills contain a number of provisions designed to rein in the Administration’s overreach.
Debt Problem Still Looms
The ugly is the $18 trillion national debt, which is driven largely by the government programs that are on autopilot, also known as mandatory spending.
Annual spending bills like the continuing resolution have no effect on these programs. If we want to make real progress in reducing the national debt, Republicans and Democrats in Congress must convince the Administration to engage in serious negotiations between now and December.
These negotiations are essential to bringing us closer to a sustainable financial future.
By Senator Roger Wicker

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