U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today described a six-month spending plan as a "lost opportunity" for lawmakers and the people they represent to improve the operations and efficiency of federal government programs and services.
Cochran, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Thursday addressed the Senate as it considers a six-month FY2013 continuing resolution (H.J.Res.117) to fund the federal operations through March 27, 2013.
"The resolution represents a lost opportunity," Cochran said. "We have lost the opportunity to provide agencies with at least some certainty about funding for this fiscal year. We have lost the opportunity to make informed judgments about which programs are effective and deserving of additional resources, and which programs should be reformed or terminated. Contracts will not be let in a timely and efficient manner, and acquisition and construction costs will rise with delay."
Cochran was critical of the Senate leadership for not allowing the Senate to consider any of the 11 appropriations bills approved by the Appropriations Committee this year, and suggested that the House of Representatives might have made even more progress on FY2013 bills "had there been any sign of movement in the Senate." The House of Representatives has approved seven of the 12 annual spending measures.
"Elections have consequences, as they most certainly should. But elections should not have the consequence of rendering Congress unwilling or incapable of performing its most fundamental duties in the times leading up to those elections. In my view, the thoughtful and dutiful appropriation of funds for our national defense and other government operations is such a fundamental duty," Cochran said.
"Appropriations bills are not simply opportunities to spend more money. They provide regular opportunities for effective oversight of federal agencies. And when we take the time to bring them to the Senate floor, they provide regular opportunities for the elected representatives of all the people to shape, as well as fund, the operations of the federal government. I hope the Senate will not continue to deny the people that opportunity," he concluded.
The senior Mississippi Senator also expressed some skepticism that putting the federal appropriations process on autopilot for six months would make it easier for Congress to resolve post-election issues including the budget sequestration, tax increases, the debt ceiling, Medicare reimbursements and other issues.