House: Let’s Talk About Everything but Revenue

The House is expected to vote – perhaps as early as this afternoon – on the Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth Working Group Act of 2013 (H.R.3273), a bill that would establish a committee of ten House members and ten Senate members charged with making recommendations to resolve the current stalemate over the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling crisis. Specifically, the legislation would empower the working group to make recommendations on overall levels of discretionary spending, the overall debt limit, and reforms in direct spending entitlement programs.  Excluded from the charge to the committee are any recommendations dealing with additional revenue as a part of the compromise to end the stand-off.  Passing this bill would be a victory for austerity advocates and a defeat for those fighting to assure government has adequate revenues to fulfill its mission.

The House will also vote on a separate bill–called the Federal Worker Pay Fairness Act—that would authorize payment to currently working federal employees, who will otherwise be paid after the shutdown ends. If both bills pass, they would be joined by legislative rule and be passed to the Senate for consideration together.

These pieces of legislation reflect the latest gimmick in the ongoing governance crisis. The House has set about passing individual spending bills to fund shuttered government services that have been highlighted in the media – the closed National Parks, the curtailed National Weather Service, and the like. Senate Democrats and the White House have said they will not go along with this tactic and are insisting the whole of government be funded, not high-profile, individual pieces. The House tactic would require 79 different non-defense appropriations bills in order to fully fund the government.

Graphic Source: Center for American Progress

Under normal operations, Congress passes about a dozen appropriations bills to fund government operations. When Congress fails to complete its appropriations work on time, continuing resolutions have been routinely used to keep the government running  between the start of the fiscal year (Oct. 1) and the time when the normal appropriations process is completed. The piecemeal passage of scores of tiny funding bills is much more a sign of political posturing than it is good governance.

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