Right Hooks

Continuing Resolution Equals Lame Duck Spending Frenzy

Congress couldn't have picked a worse year to keep the newfound tradition alive.

Political Editors · Sep. 28, 2016

Congress is once again nearing a deadline to finance the federal government, potentially raising the stakes of another government shutdown at week’s end. On Tuesday, a group of apprehensive senators opposed a continuing resolution (CR), which needs to be passed before Saturday to avert a shutdown. According to The Washington Times, “GOP leaders had hoped the deadline would scare lawmakers into unity, but most Senate Democrats, aided by maverick Republicans, mounted the filibuster, leaving Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struggling for a graceful exit to another thorny political snafu — this one coming just weeks before the election.”

McConnell had already caved to demands to give Planned Parenthood authority to allocate Zika funds, for example, but then Democrats slyly threw the Flint water crisis into the mix. It’s all part of what The Wall Street Journal calls Harry Reid’s Mayhem Project. The Senate Democrats’ chances of winning a majority in November’s election are looking murkier. Therefore, “If they can’t win on the merits,” the editors write, “they can attempt to provoke a fake crisis.” In this case, the holdup ostensibly pertains to the water situation in Flint, Michigan.

The argument falls apart, however, because that particular ordeal is being handled through independent legislation. As the Times notes, “GOP leaders in the House and Senate said Flint will be taken care of in a water projects bill now working its way through Congress. The Senate has already approved the money. Democrats, however, said they couldn’t trust House Republicans who’ve blocked similar efforts on their side of the Capitol.”

Today, lawmakers proactively acted to quash that charge. “House leaders have reached a deal to allow a vote on an amendment adding emergency funding for communities with lead-contaminated drinking water like Flint, Mich., to a waterways bill in a move that is designed to stave off an election-year government shutdown later this week,” The Hill reports. “If successful, the move could allow a separate government-funding measure to move through Congress.” There’s no assurances they will reach an agreement, of course, but if Congress fails Democrats are squarely to blame.

More importantly, however, is the damage Congress is doing by habitually relying on CRs to fund the government. In this case, assuming a CR passes, it will provide funding through December, at which point Congress is back to square one. This not only creates the appearance of a non-effective government, it leaves the cleanup work to a lame-duck session. As Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint recently explained, “If this funding bill expires in December, it’s a signal that the leadership plans a lame-duck session with a big agenda — and they will have to agree on a bill that funds the government through next September before they go home for Christmas. This is when the terrible backroom deals are the worst.” Congress couldn’t have picked a worse year to keep the newfound tradition alive. Unless you’re a Democrat.

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