The Appropriations Processby Senator Harry Reid
Posted on 2015-12-18
REID. Mr. President, the Republican leader and I are both long-
time appropriators. I love the Appropriations Committee. But over time,
the appropriations process has broken down.
There are differing opinions about the causes of the breakdown. Opinions typically vary depending on whether Senators serve in the majority or minority. But there is a bipartisan consensus that we can and must do better. I hope that in the coming session, both sides can work together to restore the appropriations process to what it once was--a thoroughly bipartisan process focused on governing, not a partisan process focused on scoring political points.
The need for bipartisanship should be obvious. After all, during the next session, we will continue to be a divided government. Republicans will be in charge of the legislative branch, and President Obama will continue to control the administration. Neither side can force the other to accept its preferred process or its preferred outcomes. The only way to make this work is for both sides to work together throughout the year and to make the compromises needed to get appropriations bills not just passed but signed into law.
Among other things, this means that both parties will have to be part of the decisionmaking process from the beginning, at both the committee and leadership levels. This doesn't just mean developing individual bills in a bipartisan way. It means reaching bipartisan agreements on the sequencing and packaging of legislation, so that one party's priorities are not pursued at the expense of the other's priorities.
True bipartisanship also requires both parties to resist the temptation to pursue poison pill riders that appeal to their own supporters but that are so strongly opposed by the other party that their inclusion in appropriations bills would grind the process to a halt. No doubt there will be many opportunities next year for both sides to score political points. But the appropriations process is not the place for that. And I hope Members in both parties will agree that it is more important to fund the government than to play politics.
I am convinced that if we can restore the appropriations process to one based on bipartisan cooperation at every stage, all Senators will benefit. It will give Members in both parties a meaningful opportunity for input, and it will avoid the need for invoking cloture on motions to proceed to appropriations bills. With some luck, it also will allow us to complete our work next year without a lameduck session and without another end of year crisis. And that is something everyone should be able to agree on.
In today's polarized environment, that may seem like wishful thinking. But there is no reason we can't make it happen. We should build upon the momentum created by adoption of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which the Senate passed with a 64-to-35 vote on October 30. And the key is really quite simple--genuine bipartisan cooperation at every step of the process.