Congress Shouldn’t Send Another Omnibusby Representative Keith J. Rothfus
Posted on 2014-01-15
ROTHFUS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today because, like many of my
700,000 bosses back home, I am frustrated with a broken Washington.
Prior to joining this House just over 1 year ago, in my work in the private sector and in my personal life deadlines mattered. If a client needed to [[Page H230]] start a contract by January 1, that contract had to be negotiated and signed by that date. Every April 15, my western Pennsylvania bosses and I have to make sure that all of our tax forms are filed on time. And on the first day of school, my neighbors and I make sure our kids are ready to start the year. And every year on May 27, I better remember that that is the anniversary that the best girl in the world and I exchanged wedding rings.
Getting things done on time is important. It is a value we teach our children.
Mr. Speaker, there is an annual deadline that the House and Senate have failed to meet with embarrassing frequency. The United States of America operates on fiscal years that begin on October 1 and end on September 30. Congress and the President are responsible for enacting the annual appropriations bills before each new fiscal year starts. That is how it is supposed to work. Unfortunately, Congress, led by both parties, has only finished its work on all regular appropriations bills before this deadline four times since 1977. That is simply unacceptable.
Twenty-six years ago, the President of the United States delivered a State of the Union address from the podium just over my right shoulder. During that address, Ronald Reagan noted that the government had just completed another broken and inefficient appropriations season: In 7 years of 91 appropriations bills scheduled to arrive on my desk by a certain date, only 10 made it on time. Last year, of the 13 appropriations bills due by October, none of them made it. Instead, we had four continuing resolutions lasting 41 days, then 36 days, and 2 days, and 3 days.
President Reagan then held up three stacks of paper totaling 45 pounds which authorized the spending of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars and reminded the Congress that it had only 3 hours to review the documents. After recounting this dysfunctional history, President Reagan pleaded: Congress shouldn't send another one of these.
Some may argue that the process is not important; it is the policy that matters. Mr. Speaker, process is important because it is inside the process that policy happens.
Our Constitution gives Congress the power to tax and spend. Exercising this spending power requires due deliberation and should allow for individual Members, on both sides of the aisle, to challenge expenditures, including whether any particular expenditure is too much, too little, or should be made at all. Those challenges should come in the form of amendments that would be debated on this House floor. It is the process by which the people of this country have the opportunity to have a say in how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent.
More than 3 months into the fiscal year, we are now heading toward the vote on what is known as an omnibus. This bill collapses all 12 regular appropriations bills into a single behemoth. We are at this point today because the House and Senate did not complete the regular appropriations process on time. Instead of voting 12 times on individual appropriations bills and hundreds of times on amendments to those bills, Members of this House will only vote once. Under this arrangement, important and necessary spending is held hostage to questionable and wasteful spending.
Last year, the House only passed four spending bills on time, and the Senate passed none. This must stop. Congress must get its work done on time.
Today, I am introducing the Congressional Pay for Performance Act of 2014. This simple bill would hold Congress accountable and force us to comply with deadlines, just like people in the real world do outside of Washington, D.C.
This is how it would work: each House of Congress must pass a budget resolution by April 15 or have its pay withheld. Then, each House of Congress must pass all 12 appropriations bills by July 31 or have its pay withheld. It would then have 2 months to reconcile the bills between the two Houses.
If Congress is not performing its core constitutional duties in a timely manner, it should not get paid until its work is done. Let this year's omnibus be the last one, for Congress shouldn't send another one of these to the President.