Chaotic End to Disappointing Year on Appropriations

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Well over two months into the current fiscal year, Congress has finally approved a single massive spending plan that funds most of the government for the rest of Fiscal 2015.

This is better than the alternatives: another government shutdown or reliance on another comprehensive “continuing resolution” that would have essentially kept last year’s spending levels in place even longer.

But the year-end rush to pass a single $1.1 trillion, 1,603-page spending bill is a poor way to do business.

First of all, the failure to pass 12 regular appropriations bills months ago hurt the ability of federal agencies to plan effectively. And the Homeland Security Department remains funded only until early next year.

The draft “omnibus” legislation was not released until last Tuesday, giving lawmakers too little time to review it. Only two days later the House passed it on a 219-206 vote. The Senate gave its approval 56-40 on Saturday.

The legislation attracted an array of questionable additions — provisions that received insufficient scrutiny and could not be opposed without voting against the entire package. It also includes various budget gimmicks.

This may be setting a low bar, but the new Congress should resolve to do better on spending plans for Fiscal 2016.

External links:
Next Congress Should Seize Opportunities for Reform (Concord)
CROmnibus Would Avoid Shutdown But Includes Budget Gimmicks (CRFB)
Cost Estimate on Spending Legislation (CBO)

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