The USA Today blasted the 109th Congress in an editorial today, accusing lawmakers of “lowering the achievement bar.” The paper complained, “Congress even punted its most basic job: approving all 11 annual spending bills that keep the government’s lights on.”
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) responded by blaming the Senate’s inaction on the appropriations process:
Some problems Congress faces stem from systemic flaws in America’s processes. No matter who has been in charge, all appropriations bills have passed on time on only three occasions in the past 30 years. Improving things will require a strong mutual commitment on the part of the White House and the leadership in both houses of Congress to reform the spending process, fix entitlements, tackle earmarks and eliminate the deficit.
While it’s true that it is a difficult task to pass all 11 appropriations bills exactly on time, the 109th Congress’ lowered the bar and set a record for its dismal performance. The fiscal year started months ago and the Senate only approved two spending bills this year, leaving “almost a half-trillion dollars of spending bills” for incoming lawmakers.
Conservative members of the House are not buying Frist’s excuses:
- Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA): “The Senate, quite honestly, has not done its work. This is not an anomaly. It has become the norm in Congress, and I’m appalled by that.”
- Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO): “There’s so much to do and we’re punting. It’s irresponsible. There’s no excuse for it.”
- Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA): “I think it’s shameful. … The Senate got into a trap of inactivity.”
Congress did not always operate this way. “In 1994, when Republicans swept back to power in the House after four decades,” GovExec.com reported, “there was no spending mess to clean up – all appropriations bills had been enacted by the Democrats before the end of the fiscal year.”