Repub­li­can fu­til­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Few con­sti­tu­tion­ally pre­scribed con­gres­sional du­ties are as straight­for­ward, reg­u­larly sched­uled, on­go­ing and ba­sic as the re­quire­ment of both cham­bers to pass laws in or­der to spend money. Ac­cord­ing to Ar­ti­cle I Sec­tion 9 Clause 7, “No money shall be drawn from the Trea­sury but in con­se­quence of ap­pro­pri­a­tions made by law.” Since the fis­cal af­fairs of Amer­ica will now ap­par­ently be op­er­at­ing on deficit fi­nanc­ing in­def­i­nitely into the fu­ture, Ar­ti­cle I Sec­tion 8 Clause 1 also seems ap­pro­pri­ate: “The Congress shall have the power [. . .] to bor­row money on the credit of the United States.”

It’s called the bud­get­ing process, and the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Congress has failed this year in per­form­ing this most ba­sic duty. In the 12th year that vot­ers en­trusted Re- pub­li­cans to con­duct con­gres­sional bud­getary mat­ters and in the sixth year of a Repub­li­can White House, th­ese ba­sic re­spon­si­bil­i­ties seem be­yond the grasp of the GOP-con­trolled Congress, in gen­eral, and the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity (55-45) in the Se­nate, in par­tic­u­lar. When the 109th Congress fi­nally ad­journs this month, the Se­nate al­most cer­tainly will have failed to pass fi­nal ver­sions of nine of the 11 reg­u­lar ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills. Yet an­other con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion, or stop­gap spend­ing mea­sure, will ap­par­ently be passed be­fore the 109th leaves town for good, hand­ing off the de­tails of the cur­rent bud­get year — which be­gan nearly 10 weeks ago — to the in­com­ing Demo­crat­ic­con­trolled Congress.

So far, Congress has passed only the de­fense and home­land se­cu­rity ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills for fis­cal 2007. Be­fore the end of June, the House passed its ver­sions of all ap­pro­pri­a­tions bills ex­cept the mea­sure for La­bor, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices and Ed­u­ca­tion, which is still pend­ing. Through the be­gin­ning of the month, the Se­nate has passed only three spend­ing mea­sures, two of which (De­fense and Home­land Se­cu­rity) were rec­on­ciled in con­fer­ence com­mit­tees with the House ver­sion and were cleared be­fore the fis­cal year be­gan.

It would be one thing if the Se­nate’s bud­getary fu­til­ity re­sulted be­cause the time avail­able for leg­isla­tive du­ties was spent de­bat­ing and pass­ing other bills. But Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Bill Frist has had the Se­nate in ses­sion for a mere 120 days since the White House un­veiled its 2007 bud­get on the first Mon­day in Fe­bru­ary. It would be an- other thing if the Se­nate were spend­ing its time de­bat­ing and vot­ing on nom­i­nees to fill fed­eral ju­di­cial va­can­cies. Ap­pallingly, how­ever, un­der Mr. Frist’s Se­nate lead­er­ship (and thanks in part to White House in­ep­ti­tude), the num­ber of un­filled ju­di­cial va­can­cies on the cir­cuit courts of ap­peal (16) at the end of the 109th Congress will ac­tu­ally ex­ceed the num­ber of cir­cuit-court nom­i­nees (15) whom the Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate re­turned to the White House af­ter the 107th Congress ad­journed.

If any other ev­i­dence were needed to con­firm Repub­li­can fu­til­ity on the bud­get front this year, con­sider the fact that 2006 will be the first year in his­tory that a Congress in which one party con­trolled both the House and the Se­nate failed to pass a bud­get res­o­lu­tion.

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