How the Government is Funded
According to the process set in law, each year the President of the United States is supposed to send Congress a budget proposal with funding level requests for each area of the federal government. Congress then uses that to draft a budget bill which sets spending priorities and funding levels. After a budget is agreed on, each committee drafts legislation that authorizes specific programs in its area of jurisdiction (for example, Armed Services authorizes spending for the military in the National Defense Authorization Act each year). Finally, appropriations bills are drafted and passed that make funds available within the limits set by the budget bill and within the scope of the authorization bills. When any part of this process breaks down, in order to keep the government running Congress must pass legislation known as a continuing resolution (or, a CR) that continues previous year funding levels (and often with a small increase for inflation).
For the last four years, this process has been disrupted by the President's continual delay in submitting a budget and the Senate's inability to pass a budget. For four years, then, we have set spending priorities, and we haven't completed the appropriations process fully. Instead, we are currently funding the government based off of past assumptions and base funding levels from 2012 (which in turn came from base funding levels in 2011, and so on). As a result of the Senate not passing a budget, we have created major inefficiencies and potential waste in the federal government--not to mention the continual threat of a government shutdown. Now once again, the current CR is set to expire on March 27th, 2013.
Funding the Government through FY2013
This week, in an effort to avoid a last-minute bad deal and in order to stop the government from shutting down, I voted for H.R. 933, a bill that would extend the current CR through the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Most importantly, this bill locked in the recent sequester cuts so that the President and Senate can't renege on them. In order to give the military some flexibility, however, we based the funding level for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs off of their requests instead of basing it on previous year funding levels. That amount is still subject to the sequester, but it will allow the Pentagon and VA more flexibility in how they implement the across-the-board cuts.
The Need for a Budget in FY2014
Although I believe it is fundamentally essential for our Congress to pass a budget each year, I recognize the importance of maintaining a functioning government. This CR--and the CR process and sequestration, more generally--are far from ideal. But by passing this bill we were able to lock in actual spending cuts, ensure that our national security is not compromised, and allow ourselves to focus on budgeting more efficiently moving forward. Within the next month, the House will once again pass a budget that sets priorities, grows the economy, and addresses our long-term spending and debt problems. We must put pressure on the Senate to ensure that they, too, will finally end the gridlock by passing a budget.
I stand by the principle that our country must set targeted spending reforms if we hope to get our deficit under control. We cannot continue to fund our government on past appropriations and implement across-the-board reckless spending reduction. Rest assured, I remain dedicated to pursuing a balanced budget, and will continue to push for bipartisan legislation that properly addresses our fiscal issues.