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While Hill Flails About On Sequestration, CR Lurches Along

Posted by Colin Clark on

CAPITOL HILL: Hours after a House Armed Services Committee on sequestration elicited bitter laugh after bitter laugh from a roomful of observers while the two sides threw figurative spitballs at each other, the Senate almost, but not quite, passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the U.S. government funded for another six months.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (and head of the defense subcommittee) told his esteemed colleagues on the Senate floor that he supported the bill, “even though it is far from perfect.” How bad is it? “In fact, I would say that it is not a particularly good bill, but passing it is much better than allowing the Government to shut down over a lack of funding.”

The CR made it to he floor but the Senate had not voted on it when we published, the bill a victim of electoral maneuverings and partisan love.

One of the most interesting things about the CR, aside from the fact that one of the Hill’s most experienced legislators was willing to publicly say it wasn’t very good, is that the passage of CRs is all too common.

“I have served in this Senate for 49 years and 9 months,” Inouye said. “During my tenure the Congress has only completed its work and enacted all of its spending bills without needing a continuing resolution on three occasions. That is not a record that we should be proud of, but it demonstrates how difficult it is to agree on funding for each of the thousands of Federal programs that the Appropriations Committee reviews annually.”

While it may not be uncommon for Congress to fail in one of its most essential Constitutional duties, Inouye noted that it’s getting worse. “However, never before in history has the Congress passed a stop-gap resolution in September to fund the entire Government for half of the coming fiscal year. It is indeed unfortunate that it has come to this,” he said in his floor statement.

For those who think this is painful or shameful or fateful they should have watched this morning’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on sequestration, the mandatory budget cuts that will go into force January 2 should Congress fail in its duties again.

I watched the hearing in a House conference room with a group of lobbyists, military officers, journalists and assorted others. After solemnly watching the hearing with the usual blank faces, the exchanges began to just, well, become laughable. And at least a dozen times much of the room just laughed at the painful silliness we were watching. There was the one where the Republican raised the tired old shibboleth about how the House tried a bunch of times to pass a bill that would fix the budget but the mean old people in the Senate just wouldn’t pass it. And the Democrat who, aware that the Senate is sort of controlled by Democrats, defended the Senate, noting (among other things) that it’s really hard to pass a bill in the august chamber.

Best line of the hearing goes to Robert Hale, Pentagon comptroller, when asked is he would send Congress a draft bill so it would work on a compromise: “If you are driving a car at a brick wall at 60 miles per hour why don’t you try to avoid the wall.” Can Congress turn in time?

What do you think?