On Meet the Press Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told guest host Savannah Guthrie that the piecemeal bills to re-open the government that Republicans have been trying to pass since the government shut down on Tuesday are “clean CRs.” He went on to say that this piecemeal approach is in fact the best way to run the government.
PAUL: We’ve been passing NIH funding, veteran’s funding. Here’s the thing that people don’t realize. That’s historically the way it’s always been. You pass small appropriation bills so you can look at them individually. It’s a much better way to run government because right now, you’re sticking everything into one bill and that’s why the leverage of shutting the government down occurs. But if you did things appropriately and passed appropriation bills one at a time no one would be able to shut down government ever. So really if Harry Reid had done his job we wouldn’t be in this position at all.
But although Paul wants to fund only the parts of the government he likes, historically Congress has adopted a far more comprehensive approach. The government has not typically been funded by temporary extensions, or continuing resolutions (CRs), but through full budgets. “Regular order,” or the normal funding process, requires both the House and Senate to pass budgets, and then a group of bipartisan lawmakers go to what is called a budget conference to hash out the differences and come up with one final bill. After that process, which allows for full debate and input on how all parts of the government should be funded, lawmakers pass individual appropriations funding bills based on the budget they’ve passed.
But while the Senate passed a budget in April and Democrats have tried to go to conference with House Republicans to find common ground, the GOP has blocked that effort 18 times. Paul himself boasted that their resistance to that process was “preventing a back room deal to raise the debt limit.”
Even if Congress were to try to fund parts of the government through individual appropriations funding bills, as Paul suggests is the best way to go about things, there’s no indication it would work. When House Republicans themselves attempted to pass an appropriations bill that would set specific funding levels for transportation and housing programs, which included such severe cuts that it halved community development grants and eliminated entirely an infrastructure funding program, so many Republican members balked that the bill was withdrawn for a lack of votes.
Meanwhile, the groups themselves who would benefit from the piecemeal spending bills that House Republicans have been voting on the past week resist this approach. The National WIC Association said that the approach is “not an acceptable solution” even though a bill was put forward to restore funding to the program that gives low-income mothers and infants access to nutrition. Even veterans, who got a lot of attention when they stormed into a shut down WWII memorial, have opposed the bill that would restore funding to all veteran services.