March Madness DC Style

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For most of the country, March means one thing: college basketball.  This year, in Washington, DC it means something completely

alice

This may be from "Alice in Wonderland" but it could be Congress.

different.  The madness to which I refer is what’s happening with our federal budget.  If you are not troubled by the fact that we are facing this fabricated chaos, you should be.

What’s the deal?  Every year, Congress passes a budget.  This is supposed to happen through the appropriations process where the various committees in the House and the Senate decide how much money each agency should get to do their business. When they cannot agree on this, they basically punt and just extend the budget from the year before.  This is called a “continuing resolution” or “CR.”  They have been doing this -- in increments as short as days.

This by itself is amazingly stupid and makes for an incredibly inefficient way to run anything and the federal government is just a huge example.  On Morning Joelast week one military expert said they would save millions of dollars by just doing their job and passing a real budget.  Something they have not done since 2008.  We have been operating under CR after CR since 2009.  That’s right.  No real budget has been passed since President Obama was inaugurated the first time.

Question: if you failed to do your job for four years, would you still have it? If you say yes, is your company hiring?  Well, Congress’ main job is to keep our government running and they do that by funding it.  They need a budget for that.  Punting doesn’t count.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “What about the sequester?”  Good question.  You see the CR keeps funding at last year’s level (or rather 2008’s level) but the sequester changed that so does the CR cancel the sequester?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  That is the madness Congress now faces.  Some CR proposals include provisions to keep the sequester but maintain funding for the programs and agencies not impacted by the sequester.  But that may not be legal or doable under the CR rules.

And Alice thought she had stepped into a strange world.  So Congress, who passed the sequester and CRs and President Obama, who has signed them have created a universe where no one really can tell how much money they will have and cannot plan for the coming year in any reasonable way.  Way to go!  I don’t mean to be cynical but this is not the change I could believe in.

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