08.03.12

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Folly Of Setting Budget Decisions On Autopilot

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, I am disappointed that Congress has agreed to put government funding decisions on autopilot for the first six months of fiscal year 2013 through another continuing resolution.  This means, in effect, that a half year’s worth of hearings, briefings, and drafting of a dozen appropriations bills will have been for naught.

I recognize there are many factors at play this year as the clock ticks toward the end of a fiscal year and toward November.  But continuing resolutions are no way to run a government, and the consequences for the American people’s priorities, and for the agencies and the dedicated workers who implement our policies, will be dramatic. 

The world does not stand still, and time does not stand still.  Circumstances that should be reflected in our budget decisions are changing all the time.  Budgets are about choices.  Budgets are about setting priorities.  Doing this carefully and thoughtfully through hearings, through fact-finding and through negotiations among the people’s representatives in Congress is not an easy process, but it was not meant to be easy.  Setting the process on autopilot is anathema to making the right decisions for our country.  

As the veteran reporter David Rogers put it today in Politico, “continuing resolutions do only one thing well: 'continue.'  They don't allow for new starts and typically set funding at the current rate enjoyed by an agency -- with no room for new ideas.”  In fact, it is worse than that.  As chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee I am particularly mindful of changes that have occurred around the world in the past year.  The situation in the Middle East and North Africa is one of many examples.  Our posture in Iraq and Afghanistan is changing significantly.   Humanitarian crises in Syria and South Sudan are far greater than anyone envisioned a year ago.  At a time when the Chinese are ratcheting up their strategic investments across the globe to advance their national interests, the United States is stuck in neutral. 

I sympathize with the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and all the Committee staff, who have worked hard to draft and report bipartisan bills.  The State and Foreign Operations bill was reported on May 24th by a nearly unanimous, bipartisan vote.  It has the strong support of Ranking Member Graham, who worked closely with me in drafting it, as well as Minority Leader Senator McConnell.  With a day or so of floor time we could pass it and go to conference.  That is the way it should be.  Yet continuing resolutions are becoming increasingly common because they are a convenient and temptingly easy way to avoid hard decisions.  Unfortunately the American people lose, the country loses, and a great deal of time, effort and money are wasted.

 

# # # # #