Weekly WastebasketCongressional Leftovers are on the MenuWe’ll Set the Table

Thanksgiving is over. Congress is heading back to town. And everyone needs to recognize there are a lot of legislative leftovers stuck in the back of the office fridge. Let’s face it, after those first couple of glorious turkey sandwiches, nobody wants to face them. After a year consumed with numerous big ticket spending bills, we’re not sure Congress has the stomach to face what is left on its plate. Luckily, Taxpayers for Common Sense is here to set the table for you.

First up: Shutdown Hangover. Like the after-effects of too many holiday cocktails, Congress has a major headache looming this week. Unless an agreement is reached between Congress and the White House, the federal government will shut down (except for essential services) as Friday turns into Saturday. This is because the legislative branch hasn’t met one of its basic Constitutional duties of funding the federal government through the appropriations process. Either another short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) must be passed, or the appropriations bills that fund the government need to be finalized. The Senate didn’t even have draft versions of all the necessary appropriations bills until two weeks into Fiscal Year 2022. There’s lots of blame to go around, but this shouldn’t be this hard. Shutdowns help no one. We’re tired of seeing shutdowns again and again and again. They should be taken off the menu for good.

Second: Playing Chicken with the Global Economy. Just about two weeks after the current CR runs out, on December 15th, the Treasury Secretary believes the use of so-called “extraordinary measures” will no longer be viable and the U.S. Government faces default because of the current limit on the amount of debt. We recently wrote about all the ways that would affect the global economy, not just ours. There are still serious people in the Legislative and Executive branches who cannot possibly want to tip the world into a recession or depression, let alone screw up the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury.

Third: Reconciliation Pot Pie. When you’re scraping the bottom of the leftover barrel, trying to figure out how to use the remaining gravy, pie pastry, and vegetables, you can always throw it all together into a pot pie to make it palatable. And that’s how many in Congress seem to be approaching Reconciliation. Rural broadband? Throw it in. Enhanced tax credits for everyone at the kiddie table? Sure. Most people seem to like those things. On its own you might not like the taste of more money going to failed biofuels projects, continued favorable treatment to hardrock companies, or new tax credits for nuclear power, but together? Douse it with excessive amounts of SALT deductions and apparently just enough members will be able to stomach it. Instead, Congress should tweak the Reconciliation recipe for improved fiscal health.

Fourth: Talking Turkey about Federal Appointments. The minority party in the Senate continues to hold Biden Administration appointees hostage. One of the other major Constitutional responsibilities of the Legislative Branch, this time of just the Senate, is to advise upon and consent to Presidential appointments. From nominated Ambassadors to Assistant Secretaries of Whatever, the Senate is unable to hold votes on appointees. This means people are “acting” in these roles, often career civil servants who shouldn’t be forced to take inherently political positions. This has to stop.

 Fifth: Debt and Disaster Dessert. While Congress is contemplating what to do with its leftovers, federal agencies are still dealing with the last few fiscal feasts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) still has agriculture disaster funds from the expiring Continuing Resolution, to the tune of $10 billion, plus billions of dollars in COVID-19 income subsidies yet to spend that date back to last year. Whether you had chicken, eggs, turkey, ham, duck, geese, pheasant, and/or quail on the Thanksgiving menu, $270 million+ in COVID-19 subsidies for swine and poultry growers are still on the way out of the USDA’s [fridge] door. And that’s just the tip of the Ag subsidy smorgasbord.

Like we said, there’s a lot of legislative leftovers on the Congressional plate. And they’re actually vitally important to running the federal government. Time for Congress and the White House to come together and serve up a compromise.

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