Congress works best on what is often referred to as “regular order.” Regular order would dictate prompt action on the Nation’s annual obligations to fund the basic operations of the Federal government with the provision of new funding and authorities as of October 1, the start of the next fiscal year.
Doing so affords the Congress its constitutional oversight responsibilities over the Executive Branch. However, when it comes to the annual appropriations process, what should be regular has become predictably irregular.
The first year of a new administration does pose many challenges to the Congress’ legislative agenda and the appropriations process. And in its efforts within a very compressed timeframe to return to regular order, the House was able to pass four appropriations bills in a so-called “Security Omnibus” just before the August recess.
The remaining eight bills are expected to be considered as one “omnibus” during the week of September 4. However, the Senate remains embattled with its own budget debate, rendering passage of any of its own appropriations bills nearly impossible. So, as Congress reconvenes this week with so few legislative days left ahead of the new fiscal year, the Nation once again must endure the rhetoric, and possibility, of a government shut-down. This is where the process continues to fail.
This has unfortunately become regular order. There is no appetite to shut down the government in any year, and this year is no different. But, the border wall, immigration, tax reform, and the debt limit will surely consume headlines and command much of the attention in Congress in this final month of fiscal year 2017. As such, the President has proactively presented the Congress with his own proposal to keep government funding flowing through mid-December. But, it is the Congress who will determine the terms and conditions of government funding moving forward.
The new regular order has seen Congress functioning in this manner each and every year. Make no mistake, this has a cascading and detrimental effect on private industry, starting from the largest of firms all the way down to small business enterprise. It also impacts local economies, communities and American families. All would agree that this method of governing inhibits and constrains the industrious and inspirational drive of innovators as well as the hard working people in cities and towns across the U.S. who want to go to work, send their children to school and know that Congress is meeting their most basic obligation.